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The Des Moines Register from Des Moines, Iowa • Page 25

Des Moines, Iowa
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BOOKS DES MOINES SUNDAY REGISTER APRIL 8, 1979 5C Gadfly Greeley REGISTER ONAWINS 5Y RONALD 6. LMN Relax, non-U! AND NON-U REVISITED, edited by Richard Buckle, with drawings by Timothy Jaques (107 pages); Debrett's Peerage-Viking, $7.95. man. Those enemies include the University of Chicago he attributes his three failures to obtain a tenured professorship to prejudice against his Irisbness, his clerical collar and general university snootiness. They also include John Cardinal Cody of the Chicago Archdiocese and the American Catholic hierarchy in general.

The final break with members of the hierarchy came after they plunked down $300,000 in 1969 for an NORC study of the attitudes of American priests and bishops and then bad to live with the study's results. AMONG OTHER things, Greeley's study showed what an unmitigated disaster Pope Paul VTs 1968 anti-birth-control encyclical "Humanae Vitae" was. The study told the bishops that their priests disagreed with the hierarchy on a variety of subjects, not the least of them the encyclical. The bishops reacted by trying to discredit the scientific objectivity of the study. Greeley responded by commenting to the bishops that "Honesty compels me to say that I believe the present leadership of the church to be morally, intellectually and religiously bankrupt" This typical Greeley outburst did not endear him to the bishops.

"I have no doubt," said Greeley, "that historians of the future will judge 'Humanae Vitae' to be one of prolific writing Catholic education, church reform, religion and secularism, the powerful myths and symbols of historic Christianity, the priestly life, modern faith, marriage, the intimacy of friendship and sex, hope and despair for a "new breed" of young Christians, mysticism, the urban neighborhood, ethnicity in American life, Democratic politics, the place of women and on and on. You find that desire creeping up on you as you become absorbed in this engrossing book even if you, like this reviewer, have engaged in the intellectually fashionable practice of passing along or inventing the latest anti-Greeley snide remark. Greeley became Kotre's graduate-school mentor at the University of Chicago a decade ago and an intimate during four years of research leading to the book. Greeley has probably written more books in the past 20 years than most Americans have read about 70 not to mention stacks of articles for learned and popular journals, magazines and newspapers, and columns for the Catholic and the secular press. Kotre may be the only person who can lay claim to having read virtually everything Greeley has written.

IN 19S0, Greeley was a little-known seminary student. In 1975, he was contemplating his 60th book and admitting that most of his hopes and dreams had come a cropper. A son of a Chicago neighborhood and the Great Depression both of which left imprints on his life and work Greeley became a parish priest, a University of Chicago faculty member and a celebrated and criticized nose counter at the campus-based National Opinion Research Center (NORC) and his present Center for the Study of American Pluralism. If a man is known by the enemies he makes, Greeley is an interesting THE BEST OF TIMES, THE WORST OF TIMES: Andrew Greeley and American Catholicism, 1950-175, -by John N. Kotre (274 pages); Nelson-Hall, $11.95.

By WILLIAM SIMBRO Register Religion Writer THE HOWARD COSELL of the Catholic Church" and "the man we all love to hate" were among the comments from four members of the liberal intelligentsia when the "Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion" in 1974 asked for their remarks on the writings of the Rev. Andrew Greeley. Among the scorn heaped on Greeley was the usual criticism that a man who cranks out so many books on so many subjects so rapidly can't be -a careful scholar. In a typical Greeley blast in the next issue of the publication, one of the kinder things he wrote of his four critics was that he found their criticism "a little graceless when it comes from writers whose own work seems marked by neither quantity nor quality." In "The Best of Times, The Worst of Times," John Kotre, a University of Michigan psychology professor and a close but not uncritical friend of the controversial Greeley, undertakes the overwhelming task of analyzing the monumental body of Greeley's writings. The book presents Greeley's tempestuous career as a symbol of the many agonies and few ecstacies in a generation of turbulent change in the Catholic Church.

Perhaps most important, Kotre manages to get inside the personality of this brilliant, angry, devout, witty, passionate, seemingly contradictory complex man. The Father Greeley who emerges is one you would long to spend time with at his Lake Michigan summer home, discussing any of the issues he has dealt with in his Father Andrew Greeley tism of Mayor Richard Daley to the reform McGovernites and followers of Eugene McCarthy. He opposed the Vietnam War but blasted fellow priests, like the Berrigan brothers, who burned draft records. His studies of ethnic groups are often misinterpreted as being racist. His dream of creating a little religious community that could be a prototype of what the Catholic Church ought to be ended in abject failure.

But Greeley always rises to fight another day, his keen Irish wit intact. In an interview, Kotre asked Greeley how he would like to be remembered when someone writes "The Catholic Experience" in the year 2000. "As one of the theorists of the New Church," said Greeley, "as one who bridged the gap between immigrant Catholicism which he sees as now dead and Vatican III." But, being Greeley, he had to add that he would like to be remembered as one who wouldn't "buy or "repeat cliches," as "a stubborn, independent troublemaker who challenged people." You cannot understand the Catholic Church of the past quarter-century without coming to terms with Andrew Greeley, bis irony-filled life and his love-hate relationship with the Church in whose priesthood he has, surprisingly, always felt comfortable. And to come to terms with this always surprising man, you need to read Kotre's book. RONALD O.

LINN; ILLUSTRATIONS FROM THE BOOK By CHRISTOPHER LEHMANN-HAUPT New York Times IN 1956, the late Nancy Mitford brought out a book she had edited, "Noblesse Oblige," which created such a flap among its readers that even in the cozy womb of whatever I was doing at the time, became aware of it, though I didn't read it then and haven't since. According to her sister, Diana Mitford (who has contributed a small, mildly corrosive essay, "Nancy Obliged," to the present volume), "Noblesse Oblige" grew out of an article on aristocracy that Nancy was supposed to be writing for Encounter magazine. When she found that all she had to say on the subject wasn't enough to fill an article "In those days there was nothing as amusing as present day honours lists to comment on," Diana remarks Nancy decided to pad it out with some comments on the use of language that a professor of philology named Alan C. Ross had sent here. These comments, of course, introduced to the language the expres sions: and "non-U" for "upper-class" and "non-upper-class." They served to inform us that, among other things, if one said, 'Pardon?" instead of one was guilty of being genteel.

Aristocrats smilfd confidently at the news! the genteel tore out their hair. The rest is hysteria. Now, 23 years later, ostensibly to examine "the changes that have taken place in the and non-U syndrome during the last quarter-cenr tury," a gathering of English writers and celebrities has collaborated on and Non-U Revisited" under the editorship of Richard Buckle, the former ballet critic for the Sunday Times of London. One gathers that a good time was had by all. In bis acknowledgements, the editor thanks Sir John Betjeman "for his funny letters and for having given him joy for nearly 50 years, and sends him his love," even though Sir John was unable to update his contribution to the original volume.

In his foreword, H. B. Brooks-Baker, the managing director of Debrett's Peerage, asserts: "In my opinion England is among the least snobbish and class-concious countries, far less so than America, for example, which basks in the reputation of being the most democratic of nations" and then proceeds to prove his point by listing 20 examples of individuals of foreign origin who have established themselves in English society. In an interview with Buckle, Cecil Beaton admits that "having climbed the ladder and won the game and become the greatest social success of our century in two continents" (Buckle's words), the degree of achievement he senses is zero. The Earl of Harewood, grandson of King George describes what it is like to be a member of the working class, now that he is managing director of the English National Opera.

And in a grand finale, the contributors discover that they are all related to one another, and celebrate the fact with seven pages worth of genealogical tables. IS all very droll in a drily English sort of way. And it ail goes to show, I suppose, that ifl this demotic age one can look with amused disdain on social climbers, providing, of course, that one sits on the top rung. But what of us who aren but are curious to know the route there? What guidelines does and Non-U Revisited" have to offer us? I'm afraid the situation is quite hopeless, at least for us Americans. For one thing, the book makes it clear in so many words that the very act of striving to be is non-U.

For another thing, the "Beginner Glossary to Non-U Words and Their Equivalents" presents a forbidding prospect. I'm more than willing to say die (U) instead of "passed on (non-U) and "false teeth instead of "dentures." But "cornflakes" or "flakes" instead of "cereal?" "Scurf" instead of "dandruff?" "Looking-glass" instead of "mirror," although admittedly "Sir Iain Moncrieffe of That Ilk, Baronet," dismisses this distinction in his essay, "The Expectan cy and Rose of the Fair State," as a pure Mitfordism." "Lavatory paper instead of "toilet paper?" Hopeless. Finally, in a brief colloquy, whose transcript appears in the text, Professor Ross, who started all the trouble, warns: "The non-U are extremely fond of cliches, many of, them of a slangy nature. Here are some. 'Watch 'Suit yourself," 'Fair 'Let's face 'I give up, 'That's right' for 'Drop 'I couldn't care Really, it's no use; we'll never break out of our non-U-ness.

I guess that's the curse of living in what H. B. Brocks-Baker calls snobbish and class-conscious America. spirit humankind, which she couldn't reproduce on a drawing board, and it doesn't take a psychiatrist to tell why). Beatrix focused early on nature study and drawings, collected, observed and experimented with white rats and other beasties, "the animals suppl(ying) a kind of intimate companionship which even in their adult years neither Beatrix nor her brother could do without." Brother Bertram was lucky.

As an adult male, he could flee bis parents' house in Bolton Gardens on the West Brompton Road. He could go to Scotland, come back for duty visits and wait 11 years before he told his parents of his marriage. Beatrix, bound by convention, was stuck with her parents, their unending peregrinations to watering places and country bouses and their demands upon her as companion, comforter and family servant Lane tracks the self-effacing Beatrix through her childhood development, examines her elaborate, coded journal (surprisingly unreveal-ing), her personal blossoming under the tutelage of Norman Warne, youngest of the British publishing family that happily, saw her worth. The story contains few discernible high points; if they existed, discretion did not permit high spirits to be exhibited. The development of the books Beatrix Potter cleverly previewed her story ideas in illustrated letters to children of her good friends gets a serious, thorough description, with occasional delightful asides.

The author periodlcally refers to an essay by Graham Greene that gave Beatrix Potter's work the full critical treatment, accompanied by what Lane calls a "Gioconda smile." Beatrix did not smile. the worst mistakes In the history of Catholic Christianity." Greeley is described as a man whose hopes and dreams have usually been dashed, whose predictions like the one for a new age of health and vitality for parochial education have often been wrong and who generally manages to come down on what the majority considers the wrong side of any argument. He is a liberal Democrat who much preferred the hard-headed pragma- Beatrix Potter and friends Eventually Beatrix Potter (her dates are 1866-1943) began making tentative steps toward independence by purchasing farm property in the Lake District Ultimately, that lead to her total shift in personality and lifestyle, a shift from her persona as Beatrix Potter, author, to Mrs. William Heelis, farm operator, countrywoman and domineering wife of a helpful, timorous country solicitor. (In her later years, she took on a facial and physical aspect rather like that of Margaret Rutherford doing her Miss Marple number.) family.

Alienation between August and Maureen is furthered by her fierce attachment to religion. Meanwhile, an adolescent neuroti-cism affecting Sheila all but destroys the family. There are limits to what the land can give to men and women no matter how much they cajole it and sweat over it. Compared to the "terrible force" manifested within those limits, passions of human beings in the novel are seen in their proper perspective. August seems powerless to change the course of his life, which is played out against a much larger drama.

He admits, finally: "I knew what this land had done for me and now, also, what it could never do." Harnack is skillful in rendering the atmosphere of rural and small-town life. August prides himself on having OMAPHIC tV Magic' THE MAGIC YEARS OF BEATRIX POTTER, by Margaret Lane (216 pages); Warne, $17.95. By JOAN BUNKE Book and Arts Editor Hi "ELEN BEATRIX Potter was a bird in a gilded Victorian cage who, in her and forties, finally flew the fortress-coop of her genteel, monied parents. Slowly working herself free from the jesses of her comfortable upper-middle-class life, she made something a great deal of her special talents. The results of her flight to freedom have echoed through the imaginations of generations of children and adults who have read her score of "inimitable little books." What child can forget Peter Rabbit (b.

1901), Hunca Munca, the Tailor of Gloucester, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, Squirrel Nutkin, Jeremy Fisher, Jemima Puddle-duck? No adult, looking back at Beatrix Potter's distinctive, eloquent drawing style, can fail to be thankful for the magic 13 years during which her "small but authentic genius" flowered. Margaret Lane (a.k.a. the Countess Huntingdon), an aficionado who in 1946 wrote "The Tale of Beatrix Potter," has puzzled out more of the details of Beatrix Potter's "solitary and in many ways repressed life" to illuminate the truly creative years in this handsomely illustrated book. Beatrix Potter's solitary, isolated life was really quite dull.

To bring her quiet personality to book life, Lane concentrates on the development of the young Beatrix' gift for observation, her knack for natural history and her fascination with all creatures great and small. (The exception was Passion LIMITS OF THE LAND, by Curtis Harptck (232 pages); Donbleday, $8.95. By JUDITH GILDNER LIMITS OF the Land" is about absolutes. Life, love, religion and death on a small Iowa farm in the 1940s involve the middle-aged narrator, August, his wife Maureen and their 13-year-old daughter Sheila in events that are terrifying but also offer them solace against the physical and psychological isolation they feel from one another and, at times, from the world. years before, August had left Iowa to go to college in Denver.

There followed 10 years of Judith Gildner is editor of Annals of Iowa, the history quarterly. Breakaws HAMMERSTRIKE, by Walter Winward (349 pages); Simon Schuster, $10.95. By NICK LAMBERTO Register Staff Writer UST WHEN the jaded reader of World War II fiction figures II that most everything interest- XJr ing about that conflict already has been written, another unusual story emerges. Why not? We've read stories of heroic escapes by American and British POWs; so bow about the war prisoners from the other side, the Germans in particular? Did they ever escape? They must at least have tried. In Walter Winward's novel, the Germans have a top-secret plan to turn their impending defeat into victory at the last moment with the help of a mass escape of German POWs.

The reader must remember that Adolf Hitler and his cohorts actually planned what became known as the Battle of the Bulge as a last-ditch attempt to split the British and Americans and then sue for a separate peace instead of unconditional surrender. In Winward's account, the focus is on the eleventh-hour mass escape by German POWs from British prison camps. One of the central characters is Maj. Gen. Kurt von Stuerzbecher, chosen to infiltrate a British prison camp and plan the big escape.

Before he can perfect bis plan and implement it, Stuerzbecher is captured by the British and taken to a POW camp near the Irish Sea. The alarmed Germans send in a highly trained team to get the general out of British hands, either by freeing him or killing him. As a POW, the general is pretending to be an ordinary soldier, though his age and his low rank do arouse some suspicions. The action is tense and the plot turns are unexpected as the tale unfolds. The reader will discover that the Germans didn't exactly corner the market on Nazi-style sadists.

In this fictional account, some of the British prison guards had their moments of hateful brutality, too. The story has a certain plausibility; it could have happened. And one wonders if any of the POWs held in camps at Clarinda and Pocahontas during World War II actually escaped, and, if so, what happened to them. Wartime censorship was total in this country. It wasn't until years later that the American people found out that Japanese balloon bombs actually fell on Iowa and other places in the United States.

So a mass escape of German POWs from British camps may have happened; even if it didn't "Hammer-strike" Is an interesting account of a might-have-been. and the land Those photographs are only part of a beautifully mounted range of illustrations in this engrossing memoir. Warne, the publisher that encouraged Beatrix Potter and benefited from her genius, has done handsomely by her in a remarkably beautiful book. Beatrix Potter's illustrations appear to be faithfully reproduced, along with her initial studies. The entire production bespeaks the loving care an author and a publishing house can and ought to give to one of the world's premier children's storytellers.

an enlightened, wider view of the world, but his detachment is not haughty or aloof. What he calls his "double vision" allows him to see value in the limits of the land and the self-contained society in which be moves, as well as his previous experience away from the farm and Kaleburg the latter is, according to August his insurance against being forever caught in a parochial sin-glemindedness. Curtis Harnack was born in LeMars, in 1927 and grew up on a farm near Remsen in Plymouth County. His autobiographical Have All Gone Away," which received high praise, is a lyrical narrative about those Iowa years. He lives in upstate New York where he is director of Yaddo, the artists' and writers' colony, and in New York City.

He is married to the writer Hortense Ca Usher. city life, but finally he came back to farm the land his grandfather had staked out near Harnack's fictional town of Kaleburg (the town in which two of his previous novels are set "Love and Be Silent" and "The Work of an Ancient August married a woman he had known in his youth and they settled down to the unfolding of their lives. The novel begins with the tragic death of Maureen's half-sister, Winnie, thought by her family to have been touched by madness. The suspicious circumstances of her death a flash fire point to suicide or murder. Maureen, seeking to avoid publicity, insists on interpreting the death as accidental.

The possibility of acquiring the dead woman's farm, adjacent to his own, leads August into a blackmailer's trap and deepens the misery and retreaL enveloping him and his.

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