Neotropical Rainforest Mammals: A Field Guide , by Louise H. Emmons, illustrations by Francois Feer (University of Chicago Press, $19.95). If you can't go to the Central and South American rain forests to see firsthand their threatened ecosystems, here is the next best thing: a color-illustrated field guide to the marvelously rich and secretive fauna that inhabit these distant and exotic climes. Whether your fancy be for the singularly ugly varieties of bats (including the vampire) or the cuddly looking opossums, here are 296 individual accounts of speces and genera. The author is a research associate at the Smithsonian Institution.
Freedom Under Fire: U.S. Civil Liberties in Times of War , by Michael Linfield (South End Press, $14; hardcover, $40). In this brief book, lawyer Michael Linfield recounts how the U.S. has, during wartime, suspended rights guaranteed in the Constitution for reasons of national security. The survey begins with the Revolutionary War, when publication of loyalist material was prohibited and loyalist property confiscated, and ends with the " 'low-intensity' conflict era," when the government has restricted some individuals from traveling and sued to prevent the publication of documents it deems essential to national security. In an appendix, Linfield compares the U.S. guarantees of civil liberties to those in Nicaragua, where he worked as an intern to the chief justice of that nation's supreme court.
Paths of Resistance: The Art and Craft of the Political Novel , edited by William Zinsser (Houghton Mifflin, $8.95). Drawn from the "Writer's Craft" talks given at the New York Public Library, this collection includes Robert Stone, Isabel Allende, Gore Vidal, Marge Piercy and Charles McCarry discussing their own work as political novelists. Vidal takes up the genesis and writing of Lincoln, Allende focuses on the Latin-American passion for storytelling, and McCarry -- often regarded as the best American spy novelist -- reflects on some of his experiences in Asia, in particular Japan. Visiting a village where many of the young men were killed during World War II, he expects to be vilified, but is instead thanked: Because of the American victory, he learns, the villagers have escaped the militaristic, hide-bound ways of the past, with the result that their children now receive the benefits of good medicine, healthier diets and better working conditions. As McCarry reminds us, in politics and life it's hard to guess the consequences of any act.
Four Decades of Polish Essays , edited by Jan Kott (Northwestern University Press, $15.95; cloth, $49.95). This imposing anthology emphasizes literary and cultural essays by many of the best-known, most highly regarded writers of contemporary Poland, and consequently provides a terrific introduction to this nation's post-war writing and thinking. Included are poet Czeslaw Milosz's Nobel Prize lecture, science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem's "Reflections on My Life," the late Bruno Schulz on Kafka's Trial, poet Zbigniew Herbert on "Defense of the Templars," excerpts from Witold Gombrowicz's diary, and essays by Leslek Kolakowski, Jan Kott, Adam Michnik and Stanislaw Baranczak, among others. Topics range from Pascal, Dostoevsky and St. Augustine to reflections on modernity and exile.
Beyond the Bestseller: A Literary Agent Takes You Inside the Book Business , by Richard Curtis (Plume, $9.95). Curtis, an independent literary agent, has long written a column about the ins and outs of the book business for Locus, the trade journal of science fiction. This doesn't mean that his pieces -- which make up this book -- are somehow parochially restricted to sf; what it does mean is that they are geared to hard-working, practical writers who want to get published or better understand how publishing is done. Chapters cover such topics as clout, building a career, multibook deals, payout schedules, book clubs, honor, editors, and many others.
The Harper Dictionary of Foreign Terms , revised and edited by Eugene Ehrlich (Perennial Library, $10.95). One of the great irritations of reading is to come across a phrase in a foreign language that you cannot understand. Well, here is a book that follows the Horatian exhortation: Delectando pariterique monendo, that is, of giving instruction and pleasure at the same time. Editor Ehrlich translates simple phrases like de trop and elaborate classical tags, Spanish oaths and Gaelic blessings, German aphorisms ("Es gibt fur die Kammerdiener keine Helden," i.e. no man is a hero to his valet) and numerous examples of Gallic savoir-faire.
Heavy Traffic & High Culture: New American Library as Literary Gatekeeper in the Paperback Revolution , by Thomas L. Bonn (Meridian, $10.95). Bonn, one of the leading authorities on paperback publishing history, here traces the fortunes of a single pivotal company, New American Library. Under the direction of Victor Weybright, the publisher made its Signet imprint the American equivalent of the classy British Penguins. Anyone of middle age will recall with pleasure those creamy Signet classics -- of Shakespeare, American writers like Thoreau and Melville, many others -- with afterwords by then-famous critics. NAL also brought out more popular writers like Mickey Spillane, J.D. Salinger and Ian Fleming. In those days, of course, a book like this one would have sold for half a dollar, 95 cents max.
An Autobiography , by Edwin Muir (Graywolf, $10.95). This latest volume in the Graywolf memoir series should be snapped up by anyone interested in 20th-century British literature. Like such contemporaries as Herbert Read and V.S. Pritchett, Muir was one of those hard-working, gifted men of letters who turned his hand to almost every sort of writing and did all of it superbly well. With his wife Willa, he translated Kafka into English; as a poet he composed a handful of poems that are unforgettable, most especially "The Labyrinth" (included, with a few others, in an appendix here); his study, The Structure of the Novel, ranks with Henry James prefaces and E.M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel; he was a fine literary essayist and his novels are not entirely forgotten. This beautifully composed autobiography relates this interesting man's life and career from his childhood in the Orkney Islands through his European travels before and after World War II.