Now in paperback
Sitting in Darkness: Americans in the Philippines, by David Haward Bain. New York: Penguin. 470 pp. $8.95. In his epilogue to this paperback edition, journalist David Haward Bain quotes the words of the late Benigno Aquino: ``All I'm asking from you is, if you must interfere, interfere for good, not evil.... When America has leverage and does not use it to further democracy, then I say America is as guilty as the dictator.'' Aquino's grandfather fought in the Philippine revolution against Spain (1896-98), then in the subsequent (1899-1902) insurrection against the US, which had been ceded control over the newly liberated country by the Treaty of Paris. American Colonel Frederick Funston's daring, wily, and successful plot to capture insurrection leader Emilio Aguinaldo proved a prime instance of the kind of American interference that would hinder the cause of democracy. Bain has ingeniously interwoven the stories of the two men with an account of his own 1982 expedition retracing Funston's 100-mile pursuit of Aguinaldo through mountains and jungle. A Pocket History of the United States: Eighth Revised Edition, by Allan Nevins and Henry Steel Commager, with Jeffery Morris. New York: Washington Square Press. 689 pp. $5.95.
First published in 1942, this classic popular history by two eminent American historians has been updated many times. This latest edition takes us right up to last year's bombing raid on Libya. Professor Commager, and those working with him, have continued in much the same spirit in which he and the late Allan Nevins began their enterprise. This is American history from an American viewpoint - sometimes almost to the point of tunnel vision. We read here of the Philippines, but not about Funston and Aguinaldo; of World War II, but hardly anything about the Nazi concentration camps; of American involvement in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia (of which Commager was a prescient and outspoken opponent), but not of the genocidal massacres of the Khmer Rouge. It is the kind of American history many of us will remember from our high school classrooms. Despite its gaps, it is a sound, fair-minded book that sees history from an ``old-fashioned'' (to the New Right, anyway) liberal-progressive viewpoint.
The extent to which it may or may not continue to speak to us is a measure of how much American self-perceptions have changed (or not) in the decades since World War II. The Land and Literature of England: A Historical Account, by Robert M. Adams. New York: Norton. 555 pp. Illustrated. $14.95.
One can't help being impressed by the energy, intelligence, and gusto the American critic Robert Adams (one of the editors of that fine old standard text, ``The Norton Anthology of English Literature'') has now brought to the formidable task of giving us a history of England that begins with the Celts in 1500 BC, takes us through Roman, Saxon, Norman, Plantagenet, and Tudor times, all the way to the present. The emphasis is historical, cultural, and above all, literary, with literature seen in the context of history, but not merely reduced to a product of history. Adams is a knowledgeable, openly opinionated, always stimulating guide, who writes with such epigrammatic flair throughout this long book that one can justly say that he improbably combines the steady, enduring virtures of the long-distance runner with the dash of the sprinter. Pay, Pack and Follow: Memoirs, by Jane Ewart-Biggs. Chicago: Academy Chicago Publishers. 241 pp. Illustrated. $8.95.
Only 15 days after taking up his position as British Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland in July 1976, Christopher Ewart-Biggs was assassinated when the outlawed Irish Republican Army blew up his car in Dublin. In this memoir, his widow, who was made a life peer in 1981 and who is the Labour Party's front bench spokesperson on home affairs in the House of Lords, gives an engaging account of diplomatic life. Although the Dublin posting was his first as ambassador, Mr. Ewart-Biggs had held important positions in British embassies in Algiers, Brussels, and Paris, and his wife has many sharp observations of personalities and politics, from the Algerian revolt to the twilight of Gaullism in Pompidou's France. Politically astute, sensitive to social nuances, and possessed of a refreshingly irreverent attitude toward diplomatic life, Lady Ewart-Biggs has written an uncommonly interesting book filled with tidbits and insights, including some extracts she has chosen from the frank diaries kept by her husband. In a moving postscript, she gives an inspiring account of how she has overcome the tragedy of her husband's assassination and made a political career for herself that is also the best of tributes to his progressive vision. The Ford Madox Ford Reader, edited by Sondra Stang, foreword by Graham Greene. New York: The Ecco Press, distributed by Norton. 515 pp. $13.50.
Here is a welcome contribution to the continuing quest to restore the reputation of a master of fiction, still shockingly underrated. Ford Madox Ford (1873-1939), grandson of the painter Ford Madox Brown, collaborator and friend of Conrad, editor, publisher, and often discoverer of such talents as Hemingway, Pound, Joyce, Lawrence, and Jean Rhys, was also the author of the classic war tetralogy, ``Parade's End,'' and the brilliantly constructed, spell-bindingly narrated novel ``The Good Soldier,'' which, despite its title, has nothing to do with war. Only these two, his best-known works, are not represented in this ``Reader,'' and they are readily available elsewhere. The sheer amount of Ford's writing made selection difficult for Sondra Stang, who modestly remarks, ``I could imagine a long shelf of other Ford Readers, each so different from the other as to have in common no more than a dozen or so pages.'' Fortunately, we have this particular ``Reader,'' containing excerpts from Ford's novels, plus examples of his criticism, travel-writing, poetry, and letters, including material previously unpublished.