Haven and Home: A History of the Jews in America, Abraham J. Karp (Schocken: $9.95). Jews had traveled to the New World in search of the right to be free, of course, but they soon found that freedom also could mean indifference; a life with liberty alone, they discovered, did not necessarily promote "the pursuit of happiness." "Jewishness is pushed aside here," wrote a young woman in a letter to her parents in 1654, "the way we live is no life at all. We do not know what the Sabbath and holidays are." Yet this woman, as well as the other settlers who are affectionately profiled in this 1985 book, persevered, carrying on the Jewish tradition in small, isolated communities.
That these early settlers prospered spiritually as well as economically is all the more impressive because their desire to build a closely knit ethnic community conflicted with America's concept of itself as a "melting pot." Jewish leaders did not take kindly to the notion of "melting," and one, Chaim Zhitlowsky, called in 1908 for the establishment of "the united nationalities of the United States." Zhitlowsky's compromise proved unnecessary, Karp believes, for in subsequent decades, Jews managed to commit themselves to the political society and to their religion "with both grace and dignity."
Acid Dreams: The CIA, LSD and the Sixties Rebellion, Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain (Grove: $12.95). "We do not see things as they are," reads a proverb that begins this book, "we see them as we are." The proverb is intended to cast criticism not only on the young writers and artists who were convinced that LSD was the key to creativity but on CIA leaders who believed that the drug could be used for "speech inducing experiences" and on doctors who thought mind-altering substances would revolutionize the study of mental illness. The authors' history of the role that LSD played in America is straightforward, but their conclusion that "it's not over yet" is based on the dubious premise that LSD is "a technology of the self," similar to video games, cable TV and home video.
A Child Is Born, Lennart Nilsson, photographs (Dell: $12.95). Thankfully, this 1966 book is not, as the jacket cover claims, "completely revised," for the original text and photographs did an exemplary job of transporting us to the microscopic world in which creation takes place. Lennart Nilsson, the first to photograph a live fetus in the womb, illustrates how a small cluster of cells, resembling the embryo of a sea urchin, gradually takes on the form we call human. By revealing the mystery behind creation, however, this simple story does not diminish the miracle.
Dezinformatsia: The Strategy of Soviet Disinformation, Richard H. Shultz and Roy Godson (Berkley: $3.95). The Reagan Administration, frustrated in its efforts to demonstrate that the Soviets are indeed engaged in a war against the Western World, recently has broadened its rhetorical attack on the U.S.S.R. Now, rather than merely documenting Soviet missile shipments, the Administration points out "active measures," the Soviet propaganda techniques that are profiled in this 1984 investigation. "Soviet leaders do not regard war and politics as distinct conditions," write the authors, professors of politics and government at Georgetown University, "rather, from their perspective, politics is a continual state of war carried on by a wide variety of means, sometimes including military operations." Though some of the observations are already evident ("the Soviets have sought to characterize U.S. political and military policy as the primary source of world conflict"), most of the book reads like an engaging story of espionage--interviews with high-level Soviet defectors, profiles of major front organizations such as the World Peace Council and insights into the Soviet Union's use of forged documents.
NOTEWORTHY: Final Cut: Dreams and Disaster in the Making of "Heaven's Gate," Steven Bach (Plume: $8.95). How ego, ambition and pretension ran rampant through Hollywood, creating Hollywood's greatest flop. The Early Diary of Anais Nin: Vol. Four, 1927-1931 (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: $12.95). The last Anais Nin diary released by the publisher (11 diaries cover the period between 1920 and 1974), this volume records the artist's thoughts on her affairs and on her work on a study of D. H. Lawrence. Small World, David Lodge (Warner: $4.50). Libidinous scholars dart from one academic conference to the next, delivering, but not necessarily hearing, papers.--ALEX RAKSIN