Dead Man Leading, by V.S. Pritchett; The Notebook of Malte Laurids Brigge, by Rainer Maria Rilke; His Monkey Wife by John Collier (Oxford, $5.95 each). The "20th-Century Classics" series from Oxford continues to republish hard-to-come- by, unusual, and good books that have, unaccountably, been neglected. Here, for instance, are an important novel (set in the Brazilian jungle) by a major short story writer and critic; a classic semi-autobiographical prose-poem, about Paris, death, and art, by a legendary poet; and the major novel -- centering on the marriage of a man and a chimpanzee -- by one of the wittiest modern writers of fantasy. Wonderful reading all three.
The Homewood Trilogy, by John Edgar Wideman (Avon, $8.95). An omnibus edition of Pen-Faulkner award-winner John Edgar Wideman's three novels of the Pittsburgh ghetto: Damballah, Hiding Place and Sent for You Yesterday. These are books of family, neighborhood and cultural history, seen through a consciousness that has changed through time and experience outside the ghetto. For Wideman, a University of Pennsylvania graduate, a Rhodes Scholar, and now a college professor, left Homewood years ago, but Homewood has never left him. His novels are full of yearning, of tremendous narrative power, of a yeasty blues style. They are a window on to a close- knit world, and an intimate look at Wideman's old soul.
Pretty Redwing, by Helen Henslee (Washington Square, $3.95). A small southern town during the '40s is the setting for this novel on a theme as old as Greek tragedy. A widower with a grown son falls in love with and marries a much younger woman, who in turn falls in love with the son. This most intense of love triangles makes for a novel rich in atmosphere and subtle conflicts. NONFICTION
The Unraveling of America: A History of Liberalism in the 1960s, by Allen J. Matusow (Harper & Row, $9.95). The New Frontier, the Great Society -- slogans which recall how domestic politics in America once seemed bright with promise. Even after the tragedy in Dallas, LBJ's vigorous leadership seemed to be steering the nation toward lasting peace, sustained prosperity, and full equality of opportunity. Then came the smash-up: Vietnam, the antiwar movement, urban riots, the counterculture, the New Left, Black Power, the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, the sexual revolution. This thorough analysis of the political, social, and economic currents that propelled reform in the '60s -- a volume in the distinguished New American Nation historical series -- has been widely hailed as the best chronicle there is of a turbulent decade.
Capital Buys, compiled by Andrea Lubershane Gardner and Erik Kanin; graphics by Shawn Fitzgerald (Andrik Associates, P.O. Box 5029, Alexandria Va. 22305, $8.95). Formerly titled The Inflation Fighter's Guide to Best Buys in the Washington Metro Area, this book resembles a marriage of Consumer Reports and the Yellow Pages. Here are the locations and phone numbers for hundreds of Washington area stores and businesses, organized according to their specialties. Where are the bargains in furniture, clothing, restaurants or health clubs? Capital Buys will point you in the right direction. Yet nothwithstanding its obvious usefulness, much of the book seems content merely to checklist shops and to offer rather perfunctory descriptions of their merchandise. The section, for example, on video equipment lists Erol's, Circuit Ciy, and German Hi-Fi (among others) -- but fails to tell you which sells a 19-inch Zenith color television at the lowest price.
The New Grove High Renaissance Masters and The New Grove Italian Baroque Masters (Norton, $9.95 each; cloth, $19.95). Because The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians is beyond the means of many music lovers, it is commendable that its articles on major composers are being reprinted as individual volumes. So far Norton has brought out handsome short books, complete with work-lists and extensive bibliographies, of such figures as Mozart, Beethoven, the Bach Family, and Schubert. Each is authoritative, as are these two latest offerings, the first devoted to Josquin, Palestrina, Lassus, Byrd and Victoria, the second to Monteverdi, Frescobaldi, Cavalli, Corelli, the Scarlattis, and Vivaldi. Among the authors are such notable scholars as Donald Grout, Denis Arnold, and Joseph Kerman.
Urban Bumpkins, by Robert Mankoff (St. Martin's/Marek, $7.95). Imagine a dot matrix printer trying, not too successfully, to run a graphics program and you have an idea of what Mankoff's cartoons look like. The humor is urban Manhattan (the drawings appear regularly in the New Yorker), and provoke chuckles rather than belly-laughs. A chick, just emerged from an egg, announces "And for my next act I will escape from a galvanized-iron can filled with water and secured by massive locks." In a drawing titled "The Too Personal Computer" a harried businessman arrives home to find his computer monitor displaying the message: "Where the hell have you been?" For still another example, see page 12.
Freewheeling: Bicycling the Open Road, by Gary Ferguson (The Mountaineers, 306 2nd Ave. W., Seattle, Wash. 98119, $8.95). A how-to book on long-distance cycling, complete with separate chapters on major hazards -- rain, wind, heat and cold -- not to mention another on breakdowns. Despite all this ominousness, the author forecasts exhilaration for those who set out to pedal 75 or so miles a day. The clever illustrations include an x-ray drawing of a cyclist dressed to the high-tech nines against cold weather.
Sylvia Porter's New Money Book for the 80's, by Sylvia Porter (Avon, $9.95). The first lady of cashflow covers the gamut of financial problem-solving, from abandoned property to zoning. On the way she points out that most before and after pictures in baldness-cure ads show sufferers from alopecia areata, whose hair would have grown back anyway, rather than the pattern baldness that afflicts 95 percent of shiny-topped men. She also serves up the bossy DOs and DON'Ts that some of the most competent adults seem to need when it comes to money. Example: "Don't make the mistake of thinking you can get out of an installment debt simply by returning the merchandise you bought to the seller."
The Unnatural Enemy: Essays on Hunting, by Vance Bourjaily (University of Arizona Press, $6.95). A noted novelist and writing teacher speaks for all sporting hunters by examining the writings of Edward, Duke of York; Henry David Thoreau; Ivan Turgenev; and Ernest Hemingway. Wondering whether Nimrodian guilt is endemic to the Anglo- Saxon world, Bourjaily notes that for Turgenev "the question that there may be guilt in a sportsman's killing can occur only in the mind of an addled and religious peasant eccentric. . ." With ecumenical benevolence, Bourjaily has okayed the inclusion of a foreword by Edward Abbey that takes ethical umbrage at the entire book but praises the author as a fine writer. You pay your money, you get two choices.
A Pride of Prejudices, by Vermont Royster (Algonquin, $10.95). In this handsome soft-cover new edition of his collection of opinion pieces, first published in 1968, Vermont Royster has resisted the urge to "update" his prose, or change anything, for that matter. His prose, and opinions, appear just as he originally wrote them decades ago, still crisp, still pragmatic, and still, in many cases, quite relevant.
MYSTERY AND SUSPENSE The Caravaggio Obsession, by Oliver Banks (Signet/New American Library, $2.95). Murder, renaissance art, and good writing combine to form this first-rate detection, in which Amos Hatcher pursues a criminal mastermind through the hothouse art worlds of New York and Rome. Lament for a Maker, by Michael Innes (Perennial Library, $3.50). Michael Innes has written so many witty and literate thrillers that one would be hard put to choose the best -- certainly Hamlet, Revenge and The Case of the Journeying Boy would be candidates. But many readers, including Nicholas Blake (a.k.a. C. Day Lewis, creator of detective Nigel Strangways), would pick this title, a complex tale set in Scotland, featuring five narrators, and packed with beautiful writing, literary allusion (the title comes from the medieval Scots poet William Dunbar), and an unexpected conclusion. Long out of print, it is a pleasure to see it available again.
The Enemies Within; Hard Line; Night Cover, all by Michael Z. Lewin (Perennial Library, $3.50 each). Imagine Lew Archer in Indianapolis, and you have a sense of Michael Z. Lewin's hard-boiled mysteries featuring Albert Samson. The Lieutenant Leroy Powder novels (the latter pair in this trio) feature a tough working cop. Along with Stephen Greenleaf, Jonathan Valin, and Robert Parker, Lewin has become one of the gentler, more introspective masters of modern American detective fiction.