The Outer Hebrides, Monsters, and British Tramways
One Hundred Years
of British Electric

E. Jackson-Stevens
(David & Charles)
We used to call them streetcars or interurbans, and seventy years ago, they were everywhere, and they were efficient and friendly. Then, as a matter of policy, General Motors started buying up city councils from Maine to California and promptly had the rail systems dismantled and melted down to insure their own smelly buses and cars a monopoly of the streets.

England, like the U. S., may be a socialistic country --- socialism for the rich, that is --- but it has been wise enough to keep public transportation decisions out of the hands of the corporate huns, so their tramways survived another two or three decades, and even to this date they have a fine rail system which includes trollies in Manx, Blackpool, and Snaefell Mountain. Did you say Snaefell Mountain?

These historical photographs should be enough to pull at your heartstrings, especially the double-deckers (some with open tops), and the bogie cars with glazed windows.

Jackson-Stevens claims the first tramway was built in 1776 --- of cast-iron, with L plates for the wheels. He quotes approvingly from Lord Macaulay who said

    those inventions which abridge distance have done most for the civilization of our species

but those of us who have been in a medieval European town when the tour buses pull up may have a different opinion.

First Light:
Sojourns with People
of the Outer Hebrides, the
Sierra Madre, the Himalayas,
and Other Remote Places

Ethan Hubbard
(Chelsea Green)

If you ever entertained thoughts that the photograph is non-judgmental --- free of editorializing --- let this volume be a lesson to you. Never has there been a more complete collection of happy, smiling, friendly, laughing, winsome, thoughtful, strong-backed natives: not a booger or egg-eye in the bunch.

We don't want petulant honesty to get in the way of good photojournalism, but it does get a bit cloying --- and the text echoes a world of laughing, funny, wondrous, wise, child-delighting denizens of the world. (We have yet to travel to a place like Guatemala, Chad, or India where the poverty didn't stink and the desperation of the poor didn't tear your heart out --- but maybe Hubbard has some Magic Visit Powder we never heard of to make his journeys all perfect.) He chances on his mother in San Miguel de Allende, and bless me if she isn't "white-haired, kindfaced" just like everyone else.

A Chair
for Elija

by Menke Katz
(The Smith)
Like I. B. Singer, Menke Katz has a whole zoo of beasts, birds, sea monsters, and Old Testament figures that crawl, swim, fly, and rage through his verse. He is also given to making pictures with the words:

    the rock which
    you hurt in the
    wilderness will not
    forgive you, will call you
    to justice on the day when
    Messiah will come to proclaim
    the end of death (O then only death
    will die) 0 see the rock every sundown
    as your own wound which even God cannot heal.

Although shape does not always equal pith and heart, there are enough touching, restrained sentiments to make this book worthwhile.

A Collection
of Classic
Humor, II
George W. Koon, Editor
Goering said that when he heard the word "culture," he reached for his gun. We have the same response to those books labelled "humor" and "classic." With this one, our instincts are right. It's probably a holdover from college: there was always a section of those pablum literature anthologies marked Humor, and they never seemed to be as funny as that crazy Wally Miller when he was doing imitations of the way our history teacher walked, or the funny circumlocutions of the sociology professor.

Walker Percy is included in this collection, but the day that Mr. Existential Glum writes something funny is a day we want to see, and expecting Eudora Welty to make us chuckle is like searching for a yuck in the works of John Milton.

Augustus Baldwin Longstreet (1790 - 1870) "...dod drot my soul if he eint..." might be historical but is hardly hysterical. Faulkner's entry from The Hamlet is choice, not for risibility, but for the usual genius. His character has

    the face of the breathing archetype and protagonist of all men who marry young and father only daughters and are themselves but the eldest daughter of their own wives...

We'd like to lock Koons in a room full of the works of Benchley, Jerome K. Jerome, and Perelman for a week to try to rouse him from his editorial dum-dums.

End of
Brian Lapping
(St. Martins)
Some of us have trouble figuring out what the deal is in The Middle East: who's fighting whom, and for what gain, and because of what history. We could never figure out who the Shah of Iran was, much less his successor, or his mother (or his mother's successor).

End of Empire, which came out of the television series on Granada Television, in England, is the best substitute for a lousy education we could imagine. Ten British colonies are dealt with --- their history, their independence, their present and future --- described with care and good writing.

The heroes and villains in all this are surprising. One that Lapping detests most of all is Winston Churchill, whose opposition to the coming of home rule in India fomented the disaster of 1947 --- where the creation of Pakistan also created horrific bloodshed. The reason: Churchill's delaying tactics with India had

    enormous effect. If a representative government of Indians had been formed before the war, or in 1940, or in 1942...Congress and the Muslim League could have exercised power for a useful period before the final transfer.

His heroes are even more surprising: Eisenhower and that hideous John Foster Dulles. Lapping sees them as a restraining force on Clement Atlee during the Suez Crises...they didn't want to get involved. A worthy and careful work.

Shadows of
the New World

Ved Mehta
Mehta has certainly come a long way from his early writings at The New Yorker where he would describe flying from London to Delhi, looking out the window, telling in exact detail the color of the coast of Southwest France, the serrations atop the sea, the formation of the cirrus clouds. It was all pretty silly, since anyone who knew of him knew he was blind. (They say he also insisted in riding down the middle of the streets of Oxford, on a bicycle --- and even shaving before a mirror.)

This is chronicle of his life at the Arkansas School for the Blind forty-five years ago; and if you think you have culture shock when you go to, say, Cleveland --- imagine what it would be like journeying from the Hindu town of Simi, India, to Little Rock in 1949. Mehta is a careful reporter --- and the description of the mix of problems of the adolescent, and the problems of the blind adolescent, and the problems of the blind adolescent in Arkansas, and the problems of the blind Indian adolescent in Arkansas during times of segregation: why, they're acute and gripping.

This may be Mehta's best book, giving a rich you-are-there feeling: getting a job in an ice cream factory; negotiating the streetcars of Little Rock; dealing with the moral dilemma how to go out on a date --- since dating isn't in the Hindu vocabulary.

The Golden Donors:
A New Anatony of
The Great Foundations

Waldemar Nielsen
One of our favorite writers describes the process of seeking money from foundations as "the latest in a series of cruel perversions of The American Dream." And this book is enough to seal that characterization. Nielsen is a lucid writer, and his descriptions of founding and operation of the thirty-six organizations listed here (all of them with assets of more than $250,000,000) is enough to make a grown man cry.

For example, W. L. Moody was

    one of the most mean-spirited, compulsively acquisitive, and generally unattractive tycoons in the history of American capitalism

and his foundation reflected his personality, with intrigue, law-suits, legislative meddling, and, only incidentally, grants of what the author calls "bricks-and-mortar."

More fascinating, and more depressing, is the Lloyd Noble Foundation. Noble was concerned about mid-west agriculture, what poor farming techniques were doing to the land, and to the poverty-stricken farmers --- and resolved that his foundation would do research to help them. After his death, however, the board veered sharply away from his humanitarian concerns, so that recent grants have gone mainly to national retardee organizations such as the Committee on Present Danger, the Heritage Foundation, and the National Strategy Information Center.

An Illustrated
Price Guide To
Non-Paper Sports
Ted Hake and
Roger Steckler
(Hake's Press)
Our favorites are the "Wheaties Beavers Knot Hole Gang" from the 30s, Ali's "Float Like A Butterfly/Sting Like a Bee," "Phooey to Boston" (with an Indian lad holding his nose), and an ancient one from three-quarters of a century ago that says

    First Base: I am at the bat for the Dispatch & Pioneer Press.

Buttons, pens, coins, records, pencil clips, gumball charms.

--- R. R. Doister

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