PAPER LION by George Plimpton (Perennial Library/Harper & Row: $8.95) George Plimpton has written up his Walter Mitty act in a number of big league sports (he pitched at Yankee Stadium, boxed with Archie Moore and played goalie for the Boston Bruins), but it is "Paper Lion," his account of four weeks of training camp and exhibition as last string quarterback for the Detroit Lions, for which he is best known.
Plimpton is at his best here in a series of vivid portraits--of Night Train Lane, the team's brilliant cornerback; of John Gordy, an All-Pro lineman, nicknamed The Bathroom, and of Alex Karras, the team's resident maniac (now the movie and television star, under suspension that year, wrestling on the pro circuit and speculating about his past lives as aides-de-camp to both George Washington and Adolf Hitler). We read of the hazing Plimpton endured, of the players' camaraderie and teasing, and of the disaster when the coaches finally put him into a game.
First published in 1966, "Paper Lion" is a classic example of the so-called New Journalism--with the author center stage.
GOING TO MIAMI Exiles, Tourists and Refugees in the New America by David Rieff (Penguin Books: $7.95)
In "Going to Miami," David Rieff takes the reader on a personal tour of this divided city. Based on numerous conversations, informal interviews and on his own somewhat picaresque experiences, Rieff provides an important, well-balanced if incomplete portrait of the Cuban and Anglo communities.
As Rieff sees it, Cubans have no intention of being absorbed into the general English-speaking population; the Anglos, bitter, resentful, don't hesitate to say that they vastly prefer Haitians, Jamaicans, even Salvadorans to the Cubans.
Interestingly, as John Rothchild reported in his review, Rieff's book has infuriated some of the Latins, who claim that Rieff got wrong "various fine points of Cuban history" and who call the book "generally misguided."
BEYOND WORDS Images From America's Concentration Camps by Deborah Gesensway andMindy Roseman (Cornell University Press: $18.95)
Almost 50 years after the fact, Congress has agreed to compensate Japanese Americans who were uprooted from their homes and interned in concentration camps during World War II.
"Beyond Words" is a remarkable art book, a collection of original paintings and sketches by the detainees themselves, some professional artists, some amateurs, in which they depict the hardships of incarceration; the bleak images--of the barracks, the surrounding landscapes, a child's crude rendering of a lost parent--seem virtually to yearn for liberation.
Gesensway, a reporter for the Albany Times Union, and Roseman, a judicial clerk, also provide excerpts from newspaper articles at the time, as well as oral history by the detainees. The result is an extraordinary montage of the Japanese relocation and a testament to human will and courage in the face of injustice and deprivation.
GEORGE ORWELL The Lost Writings edited by W.J. West (Avon Books: $5.95)
Recently discovered in BBC archives, these are the texts of Orwell's radio broadcasts during World War II while he served as talks producer in the Indian Section, the BBC's English-language broadcasts to India.
At the time, Orwell was best known for his account of the Spanish Civil War, "Homage to Catalonia." But he had attracted much attention for his writings about India critical of British policy there. To counteract Nazi propaganda, which dominated Indian radio in the first years of the war, Orwell was inscripted in what W. J. West describes in his cogent introduction as a media war.
"Lost Writings" is a compendium of 16 of Orwell's weekly broadcasts, a hodgepodge of critical essays about authors such as Jack London and George Bernard Shaw, essays on the war and British policy, short stories with the war as their theme, radio plays and correspondence with BBC bureaucrats as well as contributors such as E. M. Forster and T. S. Eliot.
While "Lost Writings" will be of greatest interest to Orwell scholars (one of the plays is clearly a forerunner to the extraordinary "Animal Farm"), the book is also a fascinating, if little-known, primary source of recent British history.
SOMEBODY ELSE'S LIFE by Morris Philipson (Perennial Library / Harper & Row: $7.95)
Harper & Row has just released in paper Philipson's so-called New Haven quartet ("The Wallpaper Fox," "A Man in Charge," "Secret Understandings" and "Somebody Else's Life"), novels set in university environs and populated by affluent, urbane characters.
In "Somebody Else's Life," Philipson extends his range beyond the walls of the university, as does his protagonist. Stephen Cooper, a single, middle-aged professor of philosophy, concludes that his life is a failure and seeks to involve himself in the art world, along with his mistress, selling bogus works as masterpieces to make a fortune. In the end, the scam is revealed and Cooper is on the lam in Zurich.
As Art Seidenbaum wrote in these pages, author Philipson "knows his characters, having been a professor of philosophy and director of the University of Chicago Press, . . . and the details are mostly delicious."