The following are brief notices of some current and forthcoming paperback reprints.
American Talk: Where Our Words Came From, by J. L. Dillard (Vintage, $2.95). Not all linguists have a way with words like the erudite but delectable Dillard, who turns his attention here to the special roots and outgrowths that make the American language subtly (or, sometimes, blatantly) different from that of the English. He considers not oonly the contributions of the Dutch, the Indians, the French, Spanish and various pidgin languages, but the phrases that were born at the poker table and in the fevered imaginations of Madison Avenue. As should be expected of the author of Black English , his chapter on the black contribution to the American language is particularly enlightening.
Birds, Beasts, Blossoms and Bugs: The Nature of Japan, by Harold P. Stern (Abrams, $12.50). Possibly the most beautiful and certainly the most delightfully exotic of last year's big Christmas art books, this is a historical study of how Japanese artists have responded to and portrayed the living creatures in their environment It is brightened with 177 illustrations (77 in color), superbly reproduced. For other tastes, the growing Abrams paperback catalogue offers titles as diverse as butterflies, photographs by Kyell B. Sandved; text by Jo Brewer ($9.95) and treasury of American Antiques: A Pictorial Survery of Popular Folk Arts & Crafts, by Clarence P. Hornung ($8.75), all informatively written and produced with painstaking care.
Calder: An Autobiography with Pictures, by Alexander Calder; new introduction by Hean Davidson (Pantheon, $7.95; hardcover, $15.95). Any artist who uses three dimensions, or whose imagination stretches much beyond 8 1/2 by 11 inches, can be captured only imperfectly in a book - but Calder, who used motion and empty spaces as well as color and form is even harder to present than most. In recognition of this fact, perhaps, this undertakes only modest graphic representations; it is, as the subtitle indicates, a real book with the words and memories dominant the pictures subordinate - not another coffee-table extravaganza. (See-illustration.)
Blood And Money, by Thomas Thompson (Dell, $2.50). When Joan Robinson Hill died unexpectedly after a brief, violent illness, her doting daddy suspected her husband of poisoning her and threw all the weight of his oil-based fortune into quest for revenge, first with an abortive murder trial and then with a gangster-style murder. Thompson's account of this event, involving a fascinating tour of Houston's underworld as well as its high society, will be issued in paperback next month.
Slapstick, or Lonesome No More! by Kurt Vonnegut (Delta, $3.95). A highly personal book as well as a work of fantasy; Vonnegut appears as himself and gives us a substantial segment of autobigraphy involving death in his family as introduction and epilogue to a macabre story about a future United States riddled by natural and political calamities. The real subject as usual in Vonnegut, is the problem of evil, and this novel puts the basic question in a new and disturbing form. The same publisher is issuing (at the same price) a collection of scholarly and critical essays: Vonnegut in America: An Introduction to the Life and Work of Kurt Vonnegut.
Life Goes to the Movies (Wallaby, $8.95). A scantly written but (of course) magnificently illustrated chronicle of the picture magazine's lifelong romance with the picture shows.
The Anatomy of Melancholy: What it is, with all the kinds, causes, symptomes, prognostickes & several cures of it, by Robert Burton, edited with an introduction by Holbrook Jackson (Vintage, $7.95).This splended compendium has had to wait for the fourth centennial of its author's birth before having its first paperback edition, but it is good to see justice done at last to a book that is unique both as entertainment and as nourishment for the mind. Burton's medical theories have long since been abandoned, but his keen observation of human foibles and his stately, flexible prose style have borne the centuries well. The book is unique; it will not suit everyone's taste, but it is well to be at least aware that it is ther, complete with all the Latin footnotes.
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English language, edited by Peter Davies (Delta, $3.95). The pages are approximately an inch higher and wider than those of the identical dictionary published by Dell for two dollars less, but the cover is more durable and the type is of a much more readable size. Next year, perhaps, for an added two dollars, we will have a thumb-indexed editions; meanwhile, for those who use the dictionary a lot and hate small print, this is an acquisition worth considering.
Cowboy, by Ross Santee (University of Nebraska, $3.50). Originally published in 1928, this is a fine bit of Americana, telling the authors's adventures as a 14-years-old from the time he left to get a job punching cattle until he was finally taken on as a regular hand. There is some of the charm of Tom Sawyer in this profile of a boy and a corner of late 19th-century society that were still (despite some notable peccadillos) in a sort of age of innocence.
Rubyfruit Jungle, by Rita Mae Brown (Bantam), $1.95) Bantam, which published The fancy Dancer last month for the male contigent, emerges firmly from the closet with this second consecutive demonstration that gay lit is now a mass commodity. It is the cheerful and levelheaded self-portrait of a young woman who wants "to go my own way and maybe find some love here and there" but doesn't have much use for men ("I like them sometimes as people, but sexually they're dull").
The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen by Howard Carter and A.C. Mace, with a new introduction by Jon Manchip White (Dover, $4).Other, more recent publications on the treasures discovered in the tomb of this minor Egyptian ruler make an immediate impression with the gold-gleaming lavisheness of their color illustrations. Here the pictures (105 of them) are all black and white, but they have a quality unavailable in the technically finer photos of recent years; they were taken on the spot, as the tomb and its contents were being discovered and they are a suitable illustration for this eyewitness story, originally published in 1923, a year after the discovery.
Adolf Hitler, by John Toland (Balantine, $2.95). Despite the millions of words previously published on this subject, the author has found a remarkable amount of material both new and pertinent for his gargantuan, best-selling biography of one of the crucial figures of this century. (Incidentally, those who did not purchase Joachim Fest's useful synoptic view of the Hitler period, The Face of the Third Reich, when it was available from Ace for $1.95 a few years ago may now buy a trade paperback edition with more readable type and better binding from Pantheon for $3.95.)
WWII, by James Jones (Ballantine, $2.50). This nonfiction view of the war by one of its best-known novelists is most interesting when it is most personal and anecdotal. The abundant illustrations (many in color) contribute as much to its effect as the quality of the prose; fortunately, they have survived remarkably well the transition to mass-market paper-back format.
The Face of Battle, by John Keegan (Vintage, $2.95). The author (unlike James Jones) was not at any of the three battles he describes - Agincourt, Waterloo and the Somme - but he uses with considerable skill the information supplied by those we were. He is more precise about battles closer to our own time, but, with the aid of seven or eight chroniclers including several participants, remarkably detailed and evocative about Agincourt. His descriptions bring order to what is at best a very disorderly process. His introductory chapters examine the whole genre of military history, its usefulness, problems and special rhetoric, and he concludes thoughfully that "impersonality, coercion, deliberate cruelty, all deployed on a rising scale, make the fitness of modern man to sustain the stress of battle increasingly doubtful."
The Navigator, by Morris West (Pocket Books, $2.50). A curious novel of sea travel, mingling adventure and symbolic-contemplative values, set in the South Pacific - available in October.
The Seventh Power, by James Mills (Jove, $1.95). This remarkably convincing suspense novel about teenage terrorists, who try to blackmail society with their own do-it-yourself nuclear weapon, will be available in a few weeks.