The Recognitions and JR by William Gaddis (Penguin, $12.95 each). Simultaneously with the publication of William Gaddis' new novel, Carpenter's Gothic (see page one), Penguin is reissuing his two earlier books. For many years after the appearance of The Recognitions in 1955, this enormous novel was read primarily by other writers who plundered it in their own work. Much of the innovative wildness associated with the '60s had its start here, and now, 30 years after publication, it seems much fresher than most of its imitators. Gaddis sets out to satirize intellectual phoniness using art forgery as his metaphor, but soon moves outward to deal with counterfeiting of all types. JR didn't appear until 1975, but it's easy to imagine Gaddis spending 20 years weaving this huge tapestry of American speech. I constructing his 760-page satire on the methods of American capitalism, Gaddis uses almost no third-person narration; everything is dialogue and media babble, orchestrated with great wit and irony. JR, the novel's sixth- grader hero, builds a gigantic paper financial empire the way other kids put together stamp collections. A strange crew of adults are drawn helplessly into the vortex he creates, their lives are transformed in ways that are odd indeed -- and then comes the inevitable collapse.
The Death of the Heart, by Elizabeth Bowen (Penguin, $5.95). Bowen's masterpiece appeared in 1938, the same year as Graham Greene's Brighton Rock and T.H. White's The Sword in the Stone. Portia Quayne, 16 and orphaned, comes to London to live in her stepbrother's home. Craving affection, she falls in love with a shallow, ostentatious young man who then betrays her. There is social comedy in the conflict of personalities and great penetration in Bowen's depiction of the emotional vulnerability of youth.
The Eye of the Heart, edited by Barbara Howes (Avon/Bard, $4.95). This short-story collection is the perfect book for anyone desiring an introduction to El Boom, the renaissance in Latin American fiction that has captured the world's attention in the last decade or so. Included are tales by such luminaries as Borges, Garc,ia M,arquez, Cort,azar, and Llosa. For those wanting to go beyond these "names," editor Howes has included such less familiar authors as Jorge Edwards and Dinah Silveira de Queiroz. Altogether there are 42 stories, an introduction, and notes on authors and translators. NONFICTION
The Life and Times of Cotton Mather, by Kenneth Silverman (Columbia University Press, $14.50). Eight of Cotton Mather's closest male relatives were ministers: both his grandfathers, five of six uncles and his father. In that 17th-century Christian Israel -- the Massachusetts Bay Colony -- he was minister of Boston's North Church, prolific author, Congregational divine. In our secular age, he often seems excessively Puritan -- bigoted, authoritarian, superstitious, and not a little devious. Silverman's sympathetic life, which won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for biography, makes Mather come alive in his time, and places him firmly at the head of a long line of American originals: "he was the first person to write at length about the New World without ever having seen the Old."
In the Shadow of FDR: From Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan, by William E. Leuchtenburg (Cornell University Press, $8.95). The nation's only four- term president died on April 12, 1945, but his memory lives on, especially in the commitment of many Americans to social and economic justice. This study, by one of the most distinguished of practicing historians, shows how FDR's eight successors in the White House have competed with his influence. Political observers shouldn't miss the chapter on the current president, that co-founder of the California chapter of Americans for Democratic Action, Ronald Reagan.
Modern Meat: Antibiotics, Hormones, and the Pharmaceutical Farm, by Orville Schell (Vintage, $5.95). Livestock producers increasingly rely on drugs and chemicals to supplement their animals' diets -- for instance, antibiotic feed additives to control disease and hormonal compounds to promote growth. These substances are used without medical prescription or supervision. The disturbing question therefore arises: is modern meat safe to eat? This unemotional examination of the question is investigative reporting at its best.
Greater Washington Area Bicycle Atlas: Third Edition, edited by Ken Moskowitz (Washington Area Bicyclist Association and Potomac Area Council, American Youth Hostels, $6.95). Sixty-two Mid-Atlantic tours are featured, with copious information on terrain, level of difficulty, shortcuts, food stops, lodgings, safety, local laws, regional bike clubs, major bicycling events and much more. Hit the road.
Lectures in America, by Gertrude Stein (Beacon Press, $10.95). By the time Gertrude Stein composed these lectures in 1934, she had amazed everyone by making the leap with a single book, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas>, from avant-garde mannerist and coterie obsession to best-selling author. Her new celebrity allowed Stein to inform packed houses full of listeners in the United States as to her views on painting, English literature, English grammar, and, of course, her own literary methods. She went easy on her audiences by settling for a relaxed version of her notorious style. Still, no reader is likely to mistake these pieces for anyone else's work. As usual, she says it best herself: "When I first began writing, I felt that writing should go on, I still do feel that it should go on but when I first began writing I was completely possessed by the necessity that writing should go on and if writing should go on what had colons and semi-colons to do with it, what had commas to do with it, what had periods to do with it what had small letters and capitals to do with it to do with writing going on which was at that time the most profound need I had in connection with writing."
All About Old Buildings: The Whole Preservation Catalog, edited by Diane Maddex (Preservation Press, $24.95; cloth, $39.95). Anyone interested in the architectural patrimony of the United States should know about this major reference: Chocked with photographs, facts, statistics, lists, and dates, it is a kind of preservation Yellow Pages. What is the law regarding historic landmarks? How should brick be cleaned? Who are the key people in preservation? All these matters are addressed -- and many more -- in this monumental (so to speak) volume.