For I Dipp'd into the Future, Far as Human Eyes Could See . . .
THE ONLY PLEASURE that compares in every way with taking the first look at the forthcoming fall publishing season is . . . buying school supplies. It's the end of the summer, and there sit row upon row of new, fresh paper, clean and unused notebooks, dividers to fill out, pencils to sharpen, all for your selection. Thus it is with books, all fresh, all promising, all ready to be picked up and used. And, as with school supplies, you simply cannot have everything in the store. Anyway, this selection from among the "don't miss" upcoming books is by its nature incomplete and subjective, but perhaps it will be made more authoritative by the list that is appended to it, giving publisher, approximate publication date (always and forever subject to change) and other pertinent data. Nothing so official-looking as a printed list. Saw the Vision of the World And All the Wonder that Would Be . . .
THE CULT OF PERSONALITY has become the major religion of this country. At least, People magazine and gossip columns would have it so. Every publishing season is rich with memoir, autobiography, diary, letters, but the fall of 1977 appears unusually lush. For witness: in literary memoirs alone, we are presented with Evelyn Waugh, Daphne Du Maurier, Agatha Christie, Virigina Woolf, Will and Ariel Durant, Anthony Powell. We shall be taught how to live by Peter Ustinov, Alistair Cooke, and Sarah Bernhardt, how to die by Violet Weingarten and Andre Malraux, how to be the political animal by Bobby Seale, Abba Eban, William Sloane Coffin, Jessica Mitford and Howell Raines. The entertainment stars are out in all their sparkly grandeur, led by Rosalind Russell, Dirk Bogarde, Simone Signoret, Josephine Baker and Joyce Grenfell, and trailed more dimly by Omar Sharif, Mike Douglas and Gene Autry. James Herriot, that warm and loving Yorkshire veterinarian, is back with the third volume of his life story, and Agatha Christie's husband, Max Mallowan the eminent archaeologist, has written his , and the last living offspring of Kaiser Wilhelm, Viktoria Luise, the Princess of Prussia, has written her . Four other memoirs tend to dfy classification. The first, At Random, was put together after Bennett Cerf's death mostly from his tape-recorded recollections publishing, show biz, literary and other celebrities, and his own good-natured passage through the ranks of the great. The Naked Civil Servant, by Quentin Crisp, first came to us as a superior television play from Britain. It is the life story of a flagrant homosexual who deliberately outraged the British sense of propreity, long before it became fashionable to do so, in order to strike a blow fo rhis way of life. Having suffered the predictable consequences, Crisp has written a very moving book. Moving, too, is This For Remembrance, in which Rosemary Clooney, known to the world as a cheerful, grinning pop singer, details her anguishing battle with mental illness over a long period. Clooney also talks about her long marriage to Jose Ferrer. And, possibly the most remarkable document of all, is Eyes, Etc . . . A Memoir by Eleanor Clark. Clark, who is Mrs. Rober Penn Warren, wrote Rome and a Villa and The Oysters of Locmariaquer, was faced with macular degeneration, a drastic impairment of her vision, and wrote this book with a Magic Marker on a large drawing pad, so she could see what she'd set down. It's a strong book about many facets of life, neither self-pitying nor bitter.
There are letters, too, which make up memoirs on their own. Letters from Margaret Mead, published on the occasion of her 75th birthday, and illustrated with 100 photographs from the field; letters from an agonized Anne Sexton, covering her adolescence to her death in 1974, when the poet took her own life. Letters from Franz Kafka, and those controversial letters from Tennessee Williams to his friend Donald Windham, which were a bit too frank for Mr. William's peace of mind when their publication was announced.
Besides all those first-person accounts, there are third-person recountings as well, and a sifting through the biographies yields John Barrymore, Lousia May Alcott, Demore Schwartz, Edna Ferber, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, Rex Stout, Marlene Dietrich, Sarah Bernhardt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rita Hayworth and a dual biography, ten years in the writing, of Marina and Lee Harvey Oswald. Saw the Heavens Fill With Commerce, Argosies of Magic Sales [Sic]
TURNING AWAY FROM all those people, some of whom remind us that we can make our lives sublime, let us ferret out some of what will be happening in fiction in the next four or five months. A lot of familiar names are back and some of them, like Harold Robbins, Howard Fast, John Le Carre, Irwin Shaw, Philip Roth, J.R.R. Tolkien, Nicholas Meyer, Judith Rossner, Peter De Vries, Richard Adams and John Hersey, are almost gilt-edged guarantees of best sellers. John Gregory Dunne, an admired writer but never a highly commercial one, looks like he has struck gold this time around with True Confessions, not quite a murder mystery, not quite a thriller, but a little of everything, and a book that has already made him quite a lot of money. John Fowles is problematical; he has his following, but 629 rather baffling pages put Daniel Martin more in the Magus class than in The French Lieutenant's Woman's. And Harold Brodkey's novel, for which the world has been anxiously waiting these last six years, is finally to be among us, and is titled A Party of Animals. Some of the best novels of the new season are thrillers - the Le Carre, the new Jerzy Kosinski, Thomas Gifford's The Man from Lisbon, and thrillers by Marvin Kalb and Ted Koppel writing as a team, Firefox by Craig Thomas, and the book that everybody in the business seems to be reading for pleasure, Shall We Tell the President? by Jeffrey Archer. Women novelists are represented by Toni Morrison, Margaret Drabble, Hortense Calisher, Sandra Hockman, Marilyn French, whose feminist novel The Women's Room has everybody gasping, and some gasping for air, and two new women writters: Frankcina Glass, 22, and Silvia Tennebaum, 50, both with first novels. J. P. Donleavy is back with more of the rollicking same, Wilfrid Sheed has written a major, complex novel that might bring him the mass market following he deserves, Jack Finney has another novel, as has Richard Kluger, whose book is a fictionalization of the Leo Frank case in which a Jew in Atlanta was accused of rape and given a lynch trial. Pete Hamill's novel should pick up a large number of readers, and Mark Schorer, who died very recently, has in pieces of Life a mixture of short stories and autobiographical sketches that will no doubt receive respectful attention. Jorge Luis Borges is back after half a dozen years with six lambent short stories, The Book of Sand. Pilots of the Purple Twilight Dropping Down with Costly Bales
SOON THE CHRISTMAS shopping season will be upon us and the books will be getting larger, glossier, more filled with color and more expensive . . . in short, gifts. Saving those for later in the year, we must nevertheless touch a couple of those bases now, for no season is complete without them. If I don't touch another book this year, I intend to curl up with Celebrity Homes and weep with envy over how the other 1/35th lives; I've been promised that Scavillo on Men has a dynamite picture of Kristofferson, so who cares about the other 39 interviews? Paul Bocuse's French Cooking is expensive, but will likely be the house gift of the year; Lord Kenneth Clark, the Civilisation man, has another book out, this time on animals, while conversely, Desmond Morris, the Naked Ape man, has a book coming out on the clothed apes, people.
Social History takes many forms: Aljean Harmetz writes about the making of The Wizard of Oz, while Leslie Fiedler has a history of freaks coming out. There's another book about the Algonquin Round Table and the celebrated wits who sat around it, a look at the first century of the Washington Post, and a scary book by Ovid Demaris about the international network linking terrorist organizations of different nations together. Hollywood is ever under scrutiny, and among this season's scrutinizers are Joan Mellon, James Bacon and Marie Brennar. Art Buchwald is back, with a selection of 25 years of his best and brightest; Carlos Castaneda is back with yet more native mysticism; Daniel Schorr and H.R. Haldeman each present an apologia, Schorr for the CBS firing/resignation, Haldeman for his role in Watergate. A couple of true crime stories make interesting reading between covers, the Peter Reilly case in Guilty Until Proven Innocent, and Closing Time: The True Story of the "Boodbar" Murder. For those who are determined not to be condemned to repeat history's lessons, here are The Franco Years by Jose Yglesias; Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. writing about Robert F. Kennedy; Harrison Salisbury on the earliest days of the Russian Revolution and Michael Harrington on the world's poor.
And for those who like to sit comfortably in a quiet chair, and share their thoughts and leisure moments with a compatible, intelligent person with something to say, we can recommend the new Lynn Caine book, the new Annie Dillard (she wrote Pilgrim at Tinker Creek) , the essays of George F. Will and the essays of E.B. White.
There's more, of course there's more . . . books crowd in by the literal thousands in the next five months to surprise, annoy, delight, ethrall. Would we had the space to talk about them all. And would that we could buy two notebooks and three pencil-boxes, too. It's that time of the year.