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July 07, 1985

The Disney Version: The Life, Times, Art and Commerce of Walt Disney, Richard Schickel (Simon & Schuster). A profile of Disney--from the man "who placed a Mickey Mouse hat on every little developing personality in America" to today's corporation. Schickel thinks the film company, while out of its founder's hands, now has the potential to stand apart from Hollywood sensationalism, as a voice "for the morality and aspirations of that once confident middle class that nurtured Walt Disney but which has, in recent decades, found itself spluttering and confused and, in its own mind, besieged."

Why Are They Lying to Our Children? Herbert London (Stein & Day). Author claims that university reports predicting oil supply shortages, famines and rapid population growth are simply purveying "falsehoods." Sample argument from this brief book, often praised by the President: If the United States attains "a 3 or 4% average growth rate between 1980 and 2000 . . . poverty, as defined by current criteria, virtually will have disappeared."

The Case for Animal Rights, Tom Regan (University of California). Relying on philosophical reasoning rather than scientific evidence, Regan knocks down Rene Descartes' bizarre premise that animals are mere automata lacking in sense and sensation. For Regan, scientific experimentation becomes as immoral as meat-eating (as moral patients, animals are not capable of granting their consent for such use).

Democracy, Joan Didion (Simon & Schuster). Inez Victor rebels against the buccaneer empire of her father and the glitzy political-media world of her husband in this terse, managed and manipulated odyssey, described by critic Richard Eder as "the fictional equivalent of a microchip."

Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, Raymond Williams (Oxford). A major revision of an earlier work by Williams, a social critic who helped lay the groundwork for the rise of European socialism. Creating a sociology of language, Williams traces, for instance, how the word "culture" grew from a symbol meaning "husbandry" to a way of understanding civilization.

The Heart of Psychotherapy, George Weinberg (St. Martin's). Going against the view that the psychologist's art is undefinable, even mysterious, Weinberg sets forth his vision of what ought to go on in therapy: "The mark of a successful therapist is not that his patients stay forever, but that they leave with what they came to acquire."

National Park Guide, Michael Frome (Rand McNally). Extensive revision of a standard guide to accommodations, tour operators and camping has a new listing of lodgings and an index of featured sites.

The Only Problem, Muriel Spark (Perigee). A modern comedy about a very rich young man who is writing a monograph on the Book of Job: "The only problem worth discussing," he insists, "is the problem of suffering." The link between Spark's characters and the story of Job, however, is tenuous at best.

A Child of the Century, Ben Hecht (Donald I. Fine). Acrobat, magician, poet, newspaperman, screenwriter--Hecht covers his many careers in this autobiography, 633 pages of vignettes, taking readers from Chicago to New York, H. L. Mencken to Dorothy Parker.

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