Every Mother's Son: The Role of Mothers in the Making of Men, Judith Arcana (The Seal Press, P.O. Box 13, Seattle, Wash. 98111: $10.95). Six-year-old Daniel, the author's son, is crying early in these pages, trying to grapple with pressure on the playground. "I know it's wrong . . . to join the boys in knocking girls down and pushing 'em around," he tells Judith Arcana, an ardent feminist, "but if I don't run with them, they do it to me, and call me a girl." Not exactly the time for Arcana to invoke the feminist call to arms, lecturing Daniel on the poison of patriarchal culture, but could she, on the other hand, cynically coach Daniel to tackle aggression with aggression? Arcana's dilemma illustrates the subtlety behind issues that appeared black and white in the 1960s. And while it is never resolved in this 1983 book--Arcana doesn't have all the answers about the day-to-day dilemmas mothers face--she remains convinced that Americans are still in the dark about sex roles; even "men who carry babies in backpacks and women who dress for success," she writes, assume that it's only natural for sons to want to spend more time with their fathers and less with their mothers as they grow older.
The Dictionary of Misinformation, Tom Burnham (Harper & Row: $6.95). There are many fallacies about beavers (they're careless workers, for one); Edison didn't invent the light bulb (Joseph William Swan came up with that idea in 1860); no witches were burned at Salem (or anywhere else in the United States). Tom Burnham corrects these fallacies with the satisfaction and delight of a good-humored English professor emeritus, which is, in fact, his current title at Oregon's Portland State University. Having "fun with errors while others are fooling around with facts," as Richard Armour writes in the introduction, Burnham covers a wide range of materials, though he devotes special attention to sayings that have been misquoted or misunderstood, even disputing the phrase, "You can't fool Mother Nature": "Unless one wishes to discard a vast amount of progress in the treatment and prevention of disease," Burnham vigorously argues, "one must fool Mother Nature."
Oil and Water, William MacLeish (Atlantic Monthly: $8.95). The author, son of the late Archibald MacLeish, ventured across enemy lines in this ocean war between fishermen, oil company workers, environmentalists and government officials, waving a white flag--his sense of humor and empathy. And while MacLeish's reportage may not be a classic case of heroism in battle (MacLeish himself admits that "today our wars over land and water are more civilized . . . we deploy injunctions instead of infantry"), his accomplishment remains significant, for he realizes that all involved are struggling for survival, from New Englanders fighting winter with oil, to environmentalists defending the defenseless, and even oil company executives trying to quell their insatiable appetite for growth by mergers, acquisitions and political lobbying.
The Making of the Misfits, James Goode (Limelight: $9.95). With most on-the-scene accounts of movie making depicting the creative process as a blur behind the stars, it's unusual to find a book such as this one. James Goode refrains from recounting the spicier side to the making of "The Misfits," a 1961 melodrama about ill-fated cowboys: conflicts between screenwriter Arthur Miller and director John Huston, a soaring budget (at $3.5 million, it became the most expensive black-and-white picture) and Marilyn Monroe's disturbed "physical and mental condition" (Huston's words) when production commenced. Journalists working on films in which artistry is nowhere to be found might find trading gossip to be the best strategy, of course, but Goode's low-key approach works best, for while some critics deemed the film "pretentious," there were initial inspirations--Miller became fascinated with how two cowboys--"bachelors, wanderers and lady-killers"--managed to evade society; Huston, in turn, saw Nevada and the West in general as "the last stop for the vanishing American innocent." Final, shrewd compromises, nevertheless, were necessary to keep the initial vision intact. Huston screened a take showing one of Monroe's exposed breasts to censors, for example, and then agreed to remove the take, as a way of diverting their attention away from other possibly objectionable scenes. Goode does attempt to provide fan magazine material minus the scandal, though, and at these times the book is not at its best; there is gush ("Arthur Miller is a joy to work with") and banality (three slips were made for Monroe in case one became damaged. . .").