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June 15, 1986|ALEX RAKSIN

What's Right With America, Dwight Bohmbach with Michael Bohmbach (Bantam: $3.50). Look elsewhere if you want a carefully reasoned analysis of why political and economic trends in America are inspiring rather than worrisome. The author, a former advertising executive, has a penchant for over-generalization, and so the fact that a 557.13-pound carp was caught in the Potomac River becomes proof that Americans are explorers, while Coca-Cola's decision not to abandon the old formula signifies the public's leverage over big business. Still, this 1972 book, updated for the Statue of Liberty anniversary celebration, is an impassioned portrait of the ideals to which our nation aspires.

The Novel of the Future, Anais Nin (Swallow/Ohio University: $10.95). Taken at face value, this book makes a case for idealism and against realism. Modern neuroses, writes Anais Nin, can be traced to "our attempt to separate physical and metaphysical levels." Prose writers only heighten this division by using dreams "decoratively," refusing to give credence to subconscious human aspirations while cynically accepting the status quo through such literary devices as caricature. This 1968 book, however, is not a dated appeal for the power of reverie in itself; being able "to see reality in the imagination," Nin believed, would help us confront the issues of the day, not remove us from them. Writers of prose, she believed, can take the first step toward a solution by walking with poets, over "the bridge from conscious to unconscious, physical reality to psychological reality."

Iwo Jima: Legacy of Valor, Bill D. Ross (Vintage: $9.95). The battle for Iwo Jima, a tiny Pacific island preventing American planes from reaching the Japanese heartland during World War II, was one of the most dramatic military maneuvers in history, with 75,000 American troops locked in a monthlong fight with 22,000 Japanese on the island. The strength of this story, however, lies in the telling: A combat correspondent during the battle, Bill D. Ross commands a wealth of data with such authority that this 1985 book reads like a taut thriller. Yet however engaging Ross' accounts of Adm. Chester Nimitz's battle in the Pacific and his struggle in the States (Nimitz's plan to take Iwo Jima was almost scrapped when Gen. Douglas MacArthur proposed a more flamboyant scheme to capture Formosa with 250,000 U.S. troops), we are never given the illusion that Iwo Jima was anything other than a brutal horror, claiming the lives of 644 U.S. soldiers during the first two days of combat.

Money Talks: The 2,500 Greatest Business Quotes From Aristotle to Iacocca, edited by Robert W. Kent (Pocket: $7.95). While the pithy expressions collected here all address a narrow concern--making a profit--few are predictable. The author, an instructor at Harvard Business School, treads considerable terrain in search of the best quotes to trade by the water cooler, from the strange--"You must automate, emigrate or evaporate" (General Electric's James A. Baker)--to the self-important--"There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full" (Henry Kissinger)--and the wise--"There are two times in a man's life when he should not speculate: When he can't afford it, and when he can" (Mark Twain).

The Straight Dope, Cecil Adams (Ballantine: $3.95). Where Abby reassures, Cecil Adams insults. "We will attempt to ignore your first three questions," he tells a typical letter writer, while questioning the "moral character" of another. That both Abby and Adams have found their columns increasingly successful in the last decade is not as surprising as it sounds, however, for, while Abby's readers ask questions that hit close to home, those writing to Adams go out of their way in pursuit of the ultimate trivial question: "Whatever happened to (TV) Channel One?," asks one reader. "It was reassigned for use by people with mobile radios," responds Adams, adding, as always, a gruff aside: "And considering how things have turned out they would have done well to reassign Channels 2 through 13 while they were at it."

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