The Crazy Iris and Other Stories of the Atomic Aftermath, edited by Kenzaburo Oe (Grove Press, $6.95). This collection of short stories contains fiction by seven of Japan's leading writers and is published to mark the 40th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. The stories chronicle the impact of that tragedy on the daily lives of their characters, ordinary people. The editor is himself one of Japan's most distinguished novelists, winner of virtually every Japanese literary prize.
Three Trapped Tigers, by G. Cabrera Infante, translated from the Spanish by Donald Gardner and Suzanne Jill Levine in collaboration with the author (Avon, $5.95). "Translated" is probably not the right word for the task of putting into English this wildly stylized account of disaffectd intellectuals knocking around pre-revolutionary Havana. Clearly Cabrera Infante ransacked Tristram Shandy and Joyce's last two novels for all the black pages, blank pages, pages printed backwards in mirror writing, and language games that fill its pages. Some will be put off by these extravagances, but others will love the book for its humor and sheer stylistic raunchiness. NONFICTION
Whale Ships and Whaling, by George Francis Dow (Dover, $8.95). While whaling today is considered by many a crime against nature, it was not always so. It was an honest, a dangerous, an ardurous and romantic livelihood plied by men who sailed all over the globe in search of whale meat, precious whale oil and ambergris. Whales were mythic creatures; centuries ago, they were embued with the qualities of both monsters and victims. And the fascinating engravings and prints included in the book reflect that. There are whales taking whole boats into their jaws, whales being dragged through the sea to landing places where their bodies will be processed, even a whale shown with communion being celebrated on its back. Some of the turn-of-the-century phtographs which are included near the book's end, depict the truly grisly nature of whaling.
The Movie Lover's Guide to Hollywood, by Richard Alleman (Harper Colophon, $12.95). The ultimate guide to the magic and the kitch of the fabled city of the silver screen -- which of course includes Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Pasadena and the San Fernando Valley. The entries cover such points of interest as the historic studios, night clubs and restaurants, stars' homes, grave sites, classic film locations, and hotels and apartments. Who would have thought that outside Venice High School is an Art Deco statue of Myrna Loy? Or that there is a huge mosaic of John Trumbull's painting, "The Signing of the Declaration of Independence," in Forest Lawn Cemetery near the burial plots of Errol Flynn and baseball manager Casey Stengel.
Tbe Almanac of American Politics 1986, by Michael Barone and Grant Ujifusa (National Journal, $28.95; cloth, $34.95). A recent Newsweek story reported how committee members at a key House-Senate conference on the 1986 budget were distracted by the appearance of this new, eighth edition of the indispensable reference book on national politics. What the solons were turning to, of course, were their biographies among those of all 535 members of Congress and the 50 state governors. But there's much more: surveys of the political situation in each state, detailed, vividly written descriptions of each congressional district, voting records, election results (primary and general), campaign contributions including PAC receipts, demographic statistics -- in short, the works and the most fascinating compendium of political trivia since John Gunther's Inside USA.
The Other Victorians and Engels, Manchester and the Working Class, both by Steven Marcus (Norton, $7.95, $6.95). Marcus, a Columbia professor of English, is one of the great authorities on the social life of Victorian England and these are his two best-known books: the first explores the underworld of 19th-century pornography, with a focus on that monumental compendium My Secret Life; the second provides an elaborate literary/sociological analysis of Engel's groundbreaking The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844. For all their scholarly character, both books are quite thrilling, intellecutal page-turners.
Emily Dickinson: Selected Letters, edited by Thomas H. Johnson (Harvard/Belknap, $$8.95) and Austin & Mabel: The Amherst Affair & Love Letters of Austin Dickinson and Mabel Loomis Todd, by Polly Longsworth (Holt Rinehart Winston, $10.95). You would think not much was happening in Amherst, Massachusetts, in the years before and after the Civil War. In fact, in Amherst one of the rarest individuals that ever graced this Earth was writing touchingly beautiful poetry, none of which was published until after her death in May 1886. Meanwhile, her brother, the respectable lawyer and treasurer of Amherst College, was carrying on a torrid affair with the wife of the college astronomer. Between them, these two books illuminate the extraordinary inner life of a New England town and its leading citizens.
How to Tell Your Friends From the Apes, by Will Cuppy (Liveright, $4.95). This is a marvelously quotable humor classic from the '30s, parts of which were originally published in The New Yorker when that magazine was considerably less sober-sided than it is today. The author, perhaps best known for The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody, foreshadows such modern comic greats as Monty Python and Woody Allen by his continually unexpected pairings of the sublime and the ridiculous. Thus, the zoological "lectures" (from Apes to Zebras, including Dotterels and Ouzels) collected herein contain a good deal of data and even more Dada. Plus, there's the bonus of a short preface by another master, P. G. Wodehouse.
An Aboriginal Mother Tells of the Old and the New, by Labumore: Elsie Roughsey, edited by Paul Memmott and Robyn Horsman (Penguin, $7.95). Elsie Roughsey is a member of the Lardil tribe and grew up on Mornington Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria on the North Australia coast. This fascinating autobiography (she is now 62) has been skillfully edited from oral accounts by Roughsey. The language is often awkward as the editors have preserved Roughsey's speech patterns in English. But those infelicities underscore the powerful theme of the book -- the clash of cultures between the aboriginal Lardil tribespeople, who Roughsey remembers as perpetually carefree, and the constraints of western civilization which arrived on Mornington island with missionaries and changed the lives of the natives forever. FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION
Circumpolar, by Richard A. Lupoff (Berkley, $2.95). This science fiction romp features Amelia Earhart, Lindbergh, the Red Baron and Howard Hughes in a madcap airplane race around an alternative (flat) earth's two poles. Known as an Edgar Rice Burroughs authority as well as an sf author, Lupoff includes such 1930s pulp fiction elements as death rays, lost continents, prehistoric monsters, and evil sorceresses. For somewhat darker fun from the same author, readers should looks for Lovecraft's Book (Arkham House), in which H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith and other masters of heroic pulp get involved with Nazis in America.
100 Great Fantasy Short Short Stories, edited by Isaac Asimov, Terry Carr, and Martin H. Greenberg (Avon, $2.95). At its best the short short story can be as wise as a parable, as funny as a good one- liner. This collection reprints, naturally, "Naturally" and "Voodoo" by that master of the quick punch Fredric Brown; other authors represented include Margaret St. Clair ("The Man Who Sold Rope to the Gnoles"), Harlan Ellison, Gene Wolfe, Joanna Russ, Steve Rasnic Tem, Avram Davidson, and many others.