Rough Strife and Acquainted with the Night, both by Lynne Sharon Schwartz (Perennial, $5.95 each). Rough Strife Lynne Sharon Schwartz's first novel, established her as an insistent new voice in American letters, while Acquainted with the Night, a collection of short stories, enhanced that reputation. In both the novel and the stories she explores the webs of family life, the tenuous bonds between couples, between parents and children, the strains of modern life on those bonds. Just as important as her perceptions of family life are her considerable narrative talents.
American Indian Stories and Old Indian Legends, both by Zitkala-Sa (University of Nebraska Press, $5.95 each). Gertrude Bonnin was born in 1876 to a white father and a Yankton Sioux mother. She left the reservation at the age of 8 to attend a Quaker school and continued her education at Earlham College in Indiana. Uncomfortable on the reservation yet unwilling to deny her Indian heritage, she eventually came to Washington with her husband, where she founded the The National Council of American Indians. She also wrote essays about her Indian background, which were collected in American Indian Stories, and set down the tales she had heard as a child in Old Indian Legends. Now reissued, the two books provide a valuable and charming record of Sioux culture.
The Summer of the Barshinskeys, by Dianne Pearson (Fawcett, $4.50). This story of two families, the Willoughbys, upstanding members of an English village community, and the Barshinskeys, immigrants from Russia, is a tangle of lives and passions which all begins in the idyllic English summer of 1902, and extends through the tempests of the next two decades as war descends on Europe and revolution on Russia. NONFICTION
Cast Iron: Architecture and Ornament, Function and Fantasy, Photographed by John Gay, introduced by Gavin Stamp (Salem House, $13.95). Called the "Cinderella of Architecture" cast iron had a bad press during the 19th century when it first came into wide usage. The idea of molding iron in quantity via an industrial process was anathema to taste makers like John Ruskin. He and other Arts and Crafts movement leaders called it vulgar and cheap. Today we have it to thank for much of the ornament and whimsy we value in the architecture of Victorian England. John Gay has taken a striking collection of photographs all over London and elsewhere, of balustrades, benches, lamp posts, balconies, rafters, even radiators. The book is a delight to look at.
Balanchine: Photo Album and Memoir, photographs by Steven Caras, a memoir by Peter Martins (Rizzoli, $14.95). "You, and you too, dear, are blades of grass. And I water you," George Balanchine once told Heather Watts and Peter Martins. "God put me here to take care of all of you." Martins, in his affectionate introduction to Steven Caras' lavish photo collection, pays tribute to Balanchine as an almost godlike force, who fashioned not only dances but transformed people. The album contains stunning color photographs of many Balanchine stars, like Merrill Ashley and Suzanne Farrell and Martins himself, in the great ballets. There are wonderful informal shots of Balanchine in rehearsal.
Integration of the Armed Forces, 1940-1946, by Morris J. MacGregor Jr. (Government Printing Office, $19). This book traces in considerable and fascinating detail the changing status of black servicemen from the eve of World War II, when they were excluded from many military activities and segregated in the rest, to the 1960s, when the services became a powerful engine for social change by placing segregated civilian facilities near military bases "off limits" to all personnel.
Habitations of the Word, by William H. Gass (Touchstone/Simon and Schuster, $8.95). William Gass has a pontifical professorial title -- David May Distinguished University Professor in the Humanities at Washington University (St. Louis) -- and a baroque prose style to go along with it. These word-smitten essays celebrate Emerson and Ford Madox Ford, the word "and" and the habit of talking to oneself. Running through the pieces is a sense of mystical communion between author and reader, a conviction that the process by which a living person brings a dead author back to life by reading him is tantamount to a sacrament. "Born of books, nourished by books, a book for its body, another for its head and hair" -- this is Gass characterizing the essay as a form, but he might be talking about his bookish self.
The Classical Tradition: Greek and Roman Influences on Western Literature, by Gilbert Highet (Oxford, $14.95). This is the sort of book that deserves the moniker "tome": its 200 pages of notes and index buttress a text that runs to 549 pages of its own. But considering the scope of its subject matter, the size is wholly appropriate. Highet's learning was prodigious, and he applied it to everything from the Albigensian heresy to Wagnerian opera. His main interest, however, was literary, and he could illuminate such esoteric points as the influence of Vergil on Shelley. He was not a cultural relativist. In this book he chides A.E. Housman for skimming over the reasons why he preferred to study the classics in lieu of, say, "the hymns of Tibetan monasteries." "Would he have refused to admit," Highet wonders, "that the writings of the Greeks and Romans are, objectively and universally, more beautiful? that they are more relevant to us, who are at some removes their spiritual descendants?" One might ask a further question: since Highet's death in 1978, has there been another first-rate thinker in America who could utter that phrase "objectively and universally" and get away with it unchallenged?
The Apartheid Handbook: A Guide to South Africa's Everyday Racial Policies, by Roger Omond (Penguin, $4.95). Using a question and answer format, Roger Omond, a South African now working as a journalist in England, outlines all the intricacies of the apartheid, from the strict classifications used to define race to the organization and government of homelands, those geographical areas, often far away from employment centers, where indigenous Africans are supposed to live unless officially allowed to reside elsewhere. The tone of Omond's book is deadpan factual, which makes its impact all the more powerful.
Neptune's Revenge by Anne W. Simon (Bantam, $3.95). The ocean, Anne Simon suggests, suffers the fate of all commons: having no constituency, it is used with little or no regard for the cumulative effects. Marine life has already deteriorated markedly in some regions, where teeming catches of anchoveta and salmon are harvests of the past. Toxic and especially radioactive wastes are being dumped into the sea. At some point the ocean's ability to serve as a catchall for human excess will collapse, and an "ocean holocaust" may result. This is an eloquent and timely summary of human indifference to and abuse of the sea.
Breach of Faith: The Fall of Richard Nixon by Theodore H. White (Laurel, $4.95). The modest comeback recently enjoyed by Richard Nixon makes timely the reissue of this 1975 book by our foremost president-watcher. In it he chronicles the last days of the Nixon presidency, with lengthy flashbacks into the life, times, and character of our only president to resign in disgrace. Among White's conclusions are this paradox: "To protect his 1972 victory, in which he had fought for freedom from governmental control, (Nixon) proposed to substitute personal control -- and he was to use every device, every instrument of power, within or without the law, to sustain it." POETRY
Poems, 1959-1975, by Yves Bonnefoy (Vintage, $7.95). The author is the most highly regarded French poet of his generation, which entered maturity immediately after World War II. This edition of his recent work, translated by the American poet Richard Pevear (with the original French on facing pages), is the first to appear in the United States in a decade. Some of the best poems here concern dreams, as in "The Lamp, The Sleeper": "I did not know how to sleep without you,/ Did not dare risk the descending steps without you./ Later, I learned that this earth, whose paths/ Fall into death, is another dream."
Family Reunion by Ogden Nash (Little Brown, $6.95). In 1950 the wittiest American poet went agleaning in several volumes of his verse for family- oriented material -- especially for families given to reading aloud to one another. The result was this typically clever and whimsical collection. It includes a wonderful animal section, complete with the famous one-two-and-(perhaps) three-l lamas, and this sparkler called "The Centipede." "I objurgate the centipede,/ A bug we do not really need./ At sleepy time he beats a path/ Straight to the bedroom or the bath./ You always wallop where he's not,/ Or, if he is, he makes a spot."