Reading Laura Jacobs's review of two books on George Balanchine, I thought that the authors Terry Teachout and Robert Gottlieb might have profited from reading Agnes de Mille's The Dance in America. It was one in a series of lavishly illustrated works published by the U.S. Information Agency in the late 1960s to introduce audiences abroad to the remarkably diverse aspects of culture in the United States.
Here, in part, is what de Mille wrote of her contemporary: "Because of his pristine sense of design and his illuminating grasp of music, he has imbued all ballet with an approach toward pure form, rhythmic and architectural, and he has eliminated frivolity, fussiness and trivial decoration. . . . The impact of the body of his work on his time has been to lift dancing to a parity with other fine arts, in structure, intent, sublety and discipline. He is a true master and will go down in history as such."
DeMille's book was published in "The Americans and the Arts" series, which I launched for USIA. It was widely translated and distributed to audiences abroad at no charge. One of her great disappointments was that The Dance in America could not also be made available to American audiences. Under law, the U.S. Information Agency could not distribute De Mille's book in her own country.
The Public Affairs Council
Mark Lewis's review of Peter Charles Hoffer's Past Imperfect inaccurately stated that the American Historical Association declined to investigate charges made against historians Stephen Ambrose, Michael Bellesiles, Joseph J. Ellis and Doris Kearns Goodwin. No formal complaints against these authors were ever filed with the AHA, as Professor Hoffer notes in the preface to his book.
ARNITA A. JONES
Exec. Dir., American Historical Association
Mark Lewis replies:
My review did not state that charges had been filed; merely that the American Historical Association declined to investigate. Rather than passively await a formal complaint, the AHA could have asserted itself as an institution by mounting an extraordinary response to an extraordinary situation. As indeed it did, eventually -- not by investigating, but by ordering its professional-standards panel to discontinue its program of hearing complaints. Hoffer in Past Imperfect characterizes this move as "a retreat from professional responsibility" that reflected "the profession's unwillingness to act in cases of misconduct" and its "hypocritical refusal to enforce ethical precepts." In fact, Hoffer wrote, it was the AHA's decision "to abandon adjudication" that prompted him to write this book.