Modernists, Memoirs, Melancholia, Movies | Classic Returns

This “Classic Returns” column introduces some fascinating personalities readers might have missed the first time around. In the real-lives realm, we have strong survivors: Mary Berg, a fortunate escapee of the Warsaw Ghetto during the Nazi occupation; Albert Race Sample, who triumphed over a stint in the Texas “plantation prison” system; Pauli Murray, whose internal conflicts and external influence made her a powerful voice in the civil rights movement; even Derek Taylor, the Beatles’ press agent in the Swingin’ Sixties, is a survivor of sorts. Fictional survivors include Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose, who suffered through a horrible childhood and has addiction issues; the star-crossed lovers in W.H. Hudson’s back-to-nature novel; and Tom Kristensen’s melancholy Dane Ole, who might have matched Patrick Melrose drink for drink.

Besides survivor stories, there are sf reissues, rereleased mysteries, essays by Saul Bellow, Hollywood books, one covering a megastar and the other an outlier’s memoir, and Canadian author Helen Weinzweig’s rediscovered feminist classic.

Aickman, Robert. Compulsory Games. 

NYRB Classics. May 2018. 368p. ed. by Victoria Nelson.

ISBN 9781681371894. pap. $17.95;

ebk. ISBN 9781681371900. SF/SHORT STORIES

This collection from British supernatural/gothic writer Aickman (1914–81) includes 11 original stories from eight original collections not included in the Faber four-volume centenary set reissued in 2014. Four stories unpublished in the author’s lifetime—“The Strangers,” The Coffin House,” “A Disciple of Pain,” and “The Fully Conducted Tour”—are also featured. Editor/author Nelson (Gothicka) notes that Aickman’s “sophisticated modernist tales” deserve “a much higher ranking in the literary canon than the genre ghetto they currently occupy.”

Arnason, Eleanor. Ring of Swords. 

Heirloom: Aqueduct. (Heirloom, Vol. 5). May 2018. 350p.

ISBN 9781619761407. pap. $20. SF

The fifth volume in Aqueduct’s Heirloom imprint reissues sf writer Arnason’s “Hwarhath” novel, originally published in 1993. The aim of Heirloom Books is “to bring back into print work that has helped make feminist sf what it is today,” according to Aqueduct editor L. Timmel Duchamp. Celebrated sf author Ursula K. Le Guin provides a new introduction, elaborating on her original  blurb for the 1993 edition. Among other things, Le Guin said the “ancestry” of Ring of Swords includes The War of the WorldsA Tale of Two Cities, and War and Peace.

Berg, Mary. The Diary of Mary Berg: Growing Up in the Warsaw Ghetto;

75th Anniversary Edition. ed. by S.L. Schneiderman & Susan Pentlin.

OneWorld. Jun. 2018. 320p. photos. bibliog. notes. index.

ISBN 9781786073402. pap. $22.99. AUTOBIOG

Author Berg, born Mary Wattenberg in Poland, began writing her diary in 1939, when she was 15 years old and the Nazis were cracking down on the Jewish residents of the Warsaw Ghetto, where she and her family lived. She  chronicled the increasing terror of daily life for four years before escaping to America. First published in 1945 as Warsaw Ghetto: A Diary, this edition features the original introduction by Yiddish journalist Schneiderman, who first met Berg on the dock after her ship arrived in America. Pentlin (emerita professor of modern languages, Central Missouri State Univ.) also contributes an introduction.

Hudson, W.H. Green Mansions. 

Overlook. May 2018. 400p. illus. by Keith Henderson.

ISBN 9781468309195. $30; pap. ISBN 9781585679485. $12.95; ebk. ISBN 9781468304176. LIT

Argentinian-born naturalist, ornithologist, and author Hudson’s 1904 allegorical novel is set in the Amazonian jungle. Abel, a war refugee, seeks sanctuary in the virgin forests of Venezuela, where he meets and begins a star-crossed romance with Rima, the last survivor of a mysterious aboriginal race. Hudson’s other books helped foster the back-to-nature movement of the 1920s and 1930s; this full-cloth restoration of a 1926 edition features a foil-stamped cover, 60 black-and-white drawings by Scottish illustrator Henderson, and a new introduction by author Margaret Atwood. (Film note: Audrey Hepburn and Tony Perkins starred in a 1959 film version of Green Mansions, directed by Hepburn’s then-husband, Mel Ferrer.)

Murray, Pauli. Song in a Weary Throat: Memoir of an American Pilgrimage. 

Liveright: Norton. May 2018. 592p.

ISBN 9781631494581. pap. $22.95;

ebk. ISBN 9781631494598. MEMOIR/LGBTQ

Murray (1910–85), a poet, lawyer, feminist, activist, and later, Episcopal priest, was pivotal in the overturning of Plessy v. Ferguson and other Supreme Court civil rights cases, as well as a cofounder of the National Organization for Women. She befriended progressive leaders such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Thurgood Marshall and was active in social justice movements. Her second memoir (after 1956’s Proud Shoes) was originally published posthumously in 1987. Patricia Bell-Scott (emerita, Univ. of Georgia), author of The Firebrand and the First Lady, an account of Murray’s relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt, provides a new introduction.

St. Aubyn, Edward. Patrick Melrose. 

Picador. May 2018.

ISBN 9781250305664. $26. F

As a tie-in to the Showtime Network five-part “limited event series” starring Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role, this volume collects all five of St. Aubyn’s “Patrick Melrose” novels. Never Mind unfolds over a day and an evening at the Melrose family chateau in France; Bad News opens with 22-year-old Patrick on a drug-fueled trip to New York to collect the ashes of his abusive father; the next book offers Some Hope for a newly sober Patrick; Mother’s Milk looks at him as husband, father, and son; and At Last is set over the single day of a funeral. St. Aubyn’s quintet is celebrated by other authors and critics (including tough nuts such as New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani and author/critic Francine Prose in her upcoming collection, What To Read and Why).

Sample, Albert Race. Racehoss: Big Emma’s Boy.Scribner.

May 2018. 352p.

ISBN 9781501183980. pap. $17;

ebk. ISBN 9781501183997. MEMOIR/LAW & CRIME

First published in 1984, the author’s account of his life as an African American in the Jim Crow South and 17 years of incarceration at a Texas “prison plantation” in the 1950s and 1960s has a hard-won happy ending. Sample (1930–2005) went on to be the first ex-convict in Texas to work for the governor’s office, to be hired as a probation officer, and to serve on the state bar of Texas. He was granted a full pardon in 1976 and received many awards for his work in the field of corrections and rehabilitation of ex-offenders. This edition has a new foreword and afterword written by Sample’s widow, Carol, and ten percent more material.

Taylor, Derek. As Time Goes By. Faber & Faber.

May 2018. 228p. illus. index.

ISBN 9780571342662. pap. $14.95. MUSIC/MEMOIR

Taylor was press officer for the Beatles in 1964 and for the band’s label, Apple Records, between 1968 and 1970. In the interim, he repped megastar acts such as the Beach Boys and the Byrds. Among the first Sixties pop culture books (released in 1973), this book contains anecdotes about the Beatles’ frenetic 1964 world tour, the scene on the Sunset Strip (1966–67), the Utopian beginnings of Apple Records, and the 1970 breakup of the Beatles. Music journalist and pop culture author Jon Savage (Teenage1966: The Year the Decade Exploded) provides a new introduction.


Bellow, Saul. It All Adds Up: From the Distant Past to the Uncertain Future. 

Penguin Classics. Jun. 2018.

ISBN 9780143106685. $22;

ebk. ISBN 9781623730338. ESSAYS

Literary giant Bellow (1915–2005) took a break from fiction to muse on history, politics, art, writers, intellectuals, and more in this collection of essays written over a 40-year period. Also included are his remembrances of lost friends such as John Cheever, Allan Bloom, and John Berryman. With a new intro by editor and critic Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, who reviewed the original 1994 edition.

Brown, Carter. No Harp for My Angel/Booty for a Babe/Eve, It’s Extortion. 

Stark House. May 2018. 298p.

ISBN 9781944520441. pap. $19.95. MYS

This edition comprises three “Al Wheeler” mysteries (Books 4–6) from the British-born, Australia-based author’s long-running series. Brown wrote around 300 books featuring five different series characters, but American police lieutenant Al Wheeler was his most popular; all three books were published in 1956.

Duncan, Francis. So Pretty a Problem (Mordecai Tremaine, Bk. 3).

Sourcebooks Landmark. May 2018. pap. 288p.

ISBN 9781492651765;

ebk. ISBN 9781492651772. MYS

This Golden Age mystery (originally released in 1947) about the murder of an artist and his wife’s puzzling confession is the third of five books (after Murder Has a Motive and Murder for Christmas) starring amateur criminologist Mordecai Tremaine.

Frangioni, David & Thomas Schatz. Clint Eastwood: Icon;

The Essential Film Art Collection. 

Insight Editions. Jun. 2018. 240p. illus.

ISBN 9781683833055. $39.95. FILM

Happy 88th birthday (May 31, 1930) to director/actor/
producer Eastwood, whose 60-plus years in Hollywood are represented here in a revised, expanded edition of a 2009 tribute. Frangioni, a prominent collector of Eastwood memorabilia, and movie expert and University of Texas performing arts professor Schatz have added new content from Eastwood’s most recent films.

Kristensen, Tom. Havoc. 

NYRB Classics. Jun. 2018. 528p. tr. from Danish by Carl Malmberg.

ISBN 9781681372075. pap. $17.95;

ebk. ISBN 9781681372082. F

Danish journalist, critic, poet, and author Kristensen (1893–1974) penned this “lost Modernist classic” in 1930. Author Karl Ove Knausgaard dubbed this roman à clef that follows a self-destructive literary critic who appears to have it all  “one of the best novels to come out of Scandinavia.”

Lanchester, Elsa. Elsa Lanchester,

Herself: An Autobiography. 

Chicago Review. Apr. 2018. 368p. photos. index.

ISBN 9780912777832. pap. $15.99. FILM/AUTOBIOG

She was so much more than Bride of Frankenstein. Actress of stage and screen Lanchester (1902–86) also played dotty British ladies, queens, and the occasional murderess. This long-out-of-print autobiography recounts her unconventional life and times, including her unorthodox marriage to actor and director Charles Laughton.

Weinzweig, Helen. 

Basic Black with Pearls. 

NYRB Classics. Apr. 2018. 160p.

ISBN 9781681372167. pap. $14;

ebk. ISBN 9781681372174. F

First published in 1980, Weinzweig’s layered, dreamlike second novel is recognized as a landmark of feminist fiction. With an afterword from fellow Canadian writer (The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World) and editor (Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & 50s) Sarah Weinman.


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Liz French

About Liz French

Library Journal Senior Editor Liz French edits nonfiction and women's fiction reviews at LJ and also compiles the "What We're Reading" and "Classic Returns" columns for LJ online. She's inordinately interested in what you're reading as well. Email:, Twitter: @lizefrench




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