Love and Other Infectious Diseases: A Memoir , by Molly Haskell (Morrow, $18.95). "There is no greater spectacle in the cinema," wrote Andrew Sarris, "than a man and a woman talking away their share of eternity." Much of the shared talking in which Sarris has participated has been cinematic: He is a former film critic of the Village Voice, and his wife, the author of this memoir, is the film critic for Vogue. They appear to have enjoyed a most enviable marriage until Sarris was felled by a grave and mysterious illness. Eventually he recovered (from a form of encephalitis). In powerful tribute to their intimacy, Haskell wrote this candid account, in part to fill Sarris in on the harrowing period she went though when his survival was very much in doubt.
The Book of Lies: Schemes, Scams, Fakes, and Frauds That Have Changed the Course of History and Affect Our Daily Lives , by M. Hirsh Goldberg (Morrow, $15.95). The entries in this catchily titled (and shaggy-doggily subtitled) book encompass everything from self-preserving ruses to clever hype. In the former category goes the trick played by the residents of St. Michaels, Maryland, who pulled off one of the first community blackouts during the War of 1812 and escaped a shelling by the British. In the latter go the dozen girls hired by young Frank Sinatra's agent to squeal and swoon at a performance when his career was having a hard time getting off the ground. Taken together, the sly illustrations by Ray Driver depict a mendacious rogue's gallery.
John Milton , by Gerald J. Schiffhorst (Continuum, $18.95). This is a new entry in the series Literature and Life: British Writers, in which scholars make great writers accessible to the general reader. In his chapter on Paradise Lost, the author points out how radical a departure it was for Milton to endow his epic hero, Christ, with such virtues as compassion and patience while "assigning the leading characteristic of the old heroic ideal -- physical valor -- to the archfiend." In Schiffhorst's interpretation the little-known sequel, Paradise Regained, completes a pattern by reversing the dynamics of its predecessor: Although Satan succeeded in leading Adam and Eve astray, he fails to sway Christ -- an impressive triumph for the new brand of heroism.
The Magic Lantern: The Revolution of '89 Witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin, and Prague , by Timothy Garton Ash (Random House, $17.95). This book collects and expands the English author's reports for the New York Review of Books and the Spectator on the transformation of Poland, Hungary, East Germany and Czechoslovakia from Soviet satrapies into fledgling republics (in the true sense of that word). For an outsider -- indeed, for a journalist of any sort -- Garton Ash was given unprecedented access to the movement's leaders. The title refers to the famous mixed-media theater in Prague, where actors step out of films and onto the stage and vice versa -- and which functioned as headquarters for the Czechoslovak Revolution of 1989.
Jefferson Davis and His Generals: The Failure of Confederate Command in the West , by Steven E. Woodworth (University Press of Kansas, $25). By all rights the Confederate president, a graduate of West Point from a prominent family, should have outgeneraled the Union leader, a self-made, small-town lawyer with next to no military experience. Lincoln's skills as a martial leader and his discovery of a field commander eager to exploit the Union Army's numerical advantage in the person of Ulysses Grant are by now legendary aspects of the Civil War. Less well known are Davis's shortcomings as a commander, which historian Steven E. Woodworth finds most prominently displayed in his direction of the Western theater of war.
Dancing Against the Darkness: A Journey Through America in the Age of AIDS , by Steven Petrow (Lexington, $18.95). A few years ago a physician told Steven Petrow he had Karposi's sarcoma, one of the opportunistic infections associated with AIDS. It turned out to be a misdiagnosis, but his reprieve left Petrow intent on writing about the disease and especially those suffering from it. In this book he tells the stories of a wide variety of persons with AIDS -- from the Rays, the Florida brothers who were driven out of their school and community, to Alex, a married man who died without ever divulging how he might have been infected but whose wife, Jennifer, infers from sexual problems within the marriage that he had a homosexual affair. A year after Alex's death, Jennifer became a counselor of women like herself at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, where she has won a national award as a volunteer.