• U.S.

Books: Also Current: Apr. 9, 1965

6 minute read

THE FERRET FANCIER by Anthony C. West. 256 pages. Simon & Schuster. $4.95.

This book is a kind of rural Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, in which nature replaces the church as the force that drives the young man to his destiny. The young hero runs with a wild pack of boys in County Down, a leader in all their hunts and games until he adopts a ferret named Jill. Immediately everybody shuns him because ferrets are believed to massacre barnyard fowl. Stoats are the actual villains, but ferrets look mean, and an array of sinister powers is imputed to them, including the ability to impregnate women. Through his loyalty to his pet, the hero slowly learns that his instincts are different from those of his friends. The author is a Down man himself, now living in Wales. Although he is a born nature writer, his real strength is the creation of characters and situations that any Faulkner reader would recognize.

I SEE BY MY OUTFIT by Pefer S. Beagle. 249 pages. Viking. $4.95.

It sounds simply too picaresque for words. Two precociously bearded, middle-class Jewish beatniks from The Bronx hop on their motor scooters, Jenny and Couchette, and head west for San Francisco. But 25-year-old Novelist Beagle, who actually made this trip with a friend two years ago, recounts it with the special magic of the born troubadour. His pen is as agile as his eye, whether summing up Las Vegas in a phrase (“never meant to be seen by day”) or invoking the excitement of cross-country scootering: “Jenny and Couchette slide in and out among the cars like moonlight on railroad tracks.” An enchanted journey to “the kind of country you dream of running away to when you are very young and innocently hungry, before you learn that all that land is owned by somebody.”

ROAR LION ROAR & OTHER STORIES by Irvin Faust. 213 pages. Random House. $3.95.

These ten stories steer misfit characters on wildly futile tacks toward identity. They are contemporary fairy tales, dreams embedded in urban concrete and spun from the thoughts of people who could not conceivably exist. But beneath the deceptive surface lurks the insistent point that reality and surreality are separated by no more than a crack in the sidewalk. Ishmael Ramos, for instance, is a young Puerto Rican who works in the boiler room at the Columbia University gym and for whom reality is wearing an undergraduate’s outfit and rooting for Columbia’s football team. He does not understand the game; it is enough that the Lions’ miserable performance provides a stern test of his elected involvement in life. After the Lions lose the big one to Princeton, he can think of no more fitting show of unimpaired allegiance than a joyous death leap into the Hudson River, crying against the night “We number one in the Ivory Leak.”

THREE ON A TOOTHBRUSH by Jack Paar. 276 pages. Doubleday. $4.95.

Television endowed Jack Paar with celebrity and millions of midnight fans. And because he is at heart a generous man, their devotion inspired him to share even more of himself than the camera can frame. His first two books were gratefully received by the disciples, who installed both on the bestseller lists. This one takes his flock past the same datelines—Moscow, Papeete, Lambarene, Brasilia—that the Paar family, trailing minions, visited over the past few years. The writing has the flickering quality of home movies, for which John Reddy, the Reader’s Digest staff writer and Paar pal who polishes the maestro’s prose, must be held accountable. Paar himself is blameless.

“I don’t take my books seriously,” he says. “I do them for John mainly, because John wants to do these books.”

THE WINNERS by Julio Corfazar. 374 pages. Pantheon. $5.95.

Another Ship of Fools, now translated into English, set sail two years before Katherine Anne Porter’s symbolically freighted liner made its voyage. Argentine Novelist Julio Cortazar’s passengers are lottery winners whose prizes are paid vacations on a cruise ship. But they are hustled on to a strange freighter, destination unknown. Aboard ship, the strangeness continues. An officer announces that for the present the stern of the vessel must be barred to passengers for technical reasons. What reasons? The officer explains to them that two of the ship’s company are ill with a rare form of typhus. The passengers split into two distrustful groups—one angrily determined to find the freighter’s secret, the other willing to accept the typhus explanation and make the best of the well-stocked bar. As the voyage broods on to mutiny, the division widens. On one side, pride parades as honor; on the other, moral cowardice masquerades as good sense. The cruise ends abruptly when one of the insurgent passengers is shot. Cortazar makes his point with considerable force: honor is easily fuddled, cowardice breeds comfortably, human society is both the condition and the result of the breeding. The Winners is an impressive novel, but it lacks the starkness that made Ship of Fools so brutal and so disturbing.

A SCORPION ON STONE by Gwyn Griffin. 219 pages. Holt, Rinehart & Winston. $4.95.

It is a fashionable fatuity to pity the poor underprivileged natives. But these spirited stories by Gwyn Griffin, a white novelist (Something of an Achievement) who has spent most of his life in black Africa, are ironically concerned with the poor white man who survives as an unwelcome guest in lands where he once was master. Composition Piece examines through a black man’s eyes “the new, post-war group of colonial administrators, liberal in opinions, immensely tolerant, who want to lend one books and dedicate their lives to one’s assistance.” Dawn at Reyn’s Cop describes how history catches up with a young Boer who kills a Kaffir servant and discovers to his horror that the law is seriously prepared to demand a white life for a black one. The Picnic depicts an Englishwoman stupefied to find herself in love with an Arab.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com