by Michael B. Oren
Oxford, 446 pages, $30.00
This is a masterly book. To produce his account of the Six-Day War the historian Michael B. Oren drew on thousands of pages of previously classified documents in Israeli, U.S., Russian, and British archives, and on interviews with diplomats, decision-makers, and commanders in Washington, Moscow, Jerusalem, Cairo, Amman, and Damascus. With a remarkably assured style, Oren elucidates nearly every aspect of the conflict—the historical background, the strategic and domestic political context (in Israel and in the Arab world), the diplomatic negotiations in Washington and the UN, the military and political deliberations within Israel and the Arab capitals, and the air operations and often desperate and bloody ground battles. Most successfully, Oren dramatically and cleanly depicts the combination of self-doubt, hubris, and dread that accompanied Tel Aviv's decision to go to war, and the confusing and contingent nature of Israeli military and political calculations in the midst of the conflict. In writing his strategic chronicle, Oren has also drawn the most penetrating and subtle assessment of the Israeli mind that I've encountered. Despite his no doubt sincere assurances that his is an objective account, Oren plainly takes the Israeli side, and his book refutes revisionist historians' interpretations of the 1967 war as a deliberate act of Israeli expansionism. Nevertheless, Oren is far too honest a scholar to treat Israel as a plucky David; he depicts Tel Aviv's military and political leaders as largely cunning and opportunistic realists (his pen portraits are elegant and revealing). Unless and until Egypt, Syria, and Jordan open their archives, Oren's will remain the authoritative chronicle of the war. His achievement as a writer and a historian is awesome.
by Caroline Blackwood
New York Review Books, 128 pages, $12.95
by Caroline Blackwood
New York Review Books, 328 pages, $14.95
As good as these two novels are (and Great Granny Webster, shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1977, is so funny, mordant, and harrowing that it might be a lost novella by the young Evelyn Waugh), both still risk being overshadowed by the notoriety of their author. The Anglo-Irish Lady Caroline Blackwood (1931- 1996) bewitched many of the most creative and intelligent men of her time: she married the painter Lucian Freud and the poet Robert Lowell, obsessed the moody critic Cyril Connolly, was photographed by Walker Evans (who may have fathered one of her daughters), and had affairs with the editors Alan Ross and Robert Silvers, among others. Blonde, with intense, staring eyes, she could be disorientingly silent in company and then, after a few drinks, ribald, witty, and by all accounts irresistible.