The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on February 2, 1986 · Page 76
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 76

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Sunday, February 2, 1986
Page 76
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The Salina Journal Entertainment Sunday, Feb. 2,1986 Page 4 "Hypocrite Reversed': Jonathan Swift's myth By JOHN GROSS The New York Times JONATHAN SWIFT, A HYPOCRITE REVERSED. A Critical Biography. By David Nokes. 427 pages. Illustrated. Oxford University Press. $24.95. Jonathan Swift died in 1745, and for the next 200 years he attracted a succession of legends — about his parentage (was he really the son of his patron, Sir William Temple?), about his relationships with women (did he really contract a secret marriage?), about the misanthropy and madness to which he was supposed to have gradually succumbed. The last 40 years, on the other hand, have seen a determined attempt by scholars to strip away the Review away mythology and set him in the context of his age — an attempt that has found its fullest expression so far in the three-volume biography by the late Irvin Ehrenpreis. In a busy world, however, only fellow scholars are likely to have the time to undertake a multi-volume marathon, and until now there has been no up-to-date portrait of Swift for the general reader, nothing that incorporates the results of modern research while staying within a reasonable compass. David Nokes's biography does an effective job of filling the gap; it is soberly written, without any fireworks, but well- proportioned, intelligent and persuasive in its judgments. The publishers have good grounds for claiming that it should remain the standard one-volume life for years to come. Swift is not an easy man to get right. From a distance, everything may look plain and direct, but again and again the facts compel Nokes to remind us just how complicated and devious he could be. If he sometimes seems unbearably harsh, for example, we should remember that one of his friends called him — in a phrase that Nokes uses as his subtitle — "a hypocrite reversed," a man who hated hypocrisy so much that he often went to the other extreme and concealed his virtues. Nokes's alertness to the hoaxing, booby- trapping side of Swift's character makes him a helpful guide to the recurrent question of how deep the irony goes in his various writings, in "Gulliver's Travels" above all, and how far any particular piece ought to be taken at face-value. He also provides a convincing account of Swift's elaborate dealings with his literary and political friends — dealings frequently colored by contradictory emotions — and with the two women who in their different ways succeeded in penetrating his armor, "Stella" (Esther Johnson) and "Vanessa" (Hester Vanhomrigh). Admittedly, it was only toward the end of her life that Stella, whom he had known since she was a child, agitated his innermost feelings. Until then, as Nokes says, she had been cast in a succession of reassuringly asexual roles — "pupil, friend, confidant, housekeeper and nurse"; it took the prospect of having to be present at her deathbed to shake him, filling him with fear of an emotional demand that he couldn't meet. His friendship with Vanessa, by contrast, had a strong sexual element, and he was thrown into a panic as soon as he realized that she wasn't going to be as docile as Stella. Far from it: she emerges as an unusually impressive personality, and the story of her relationship with Swift is one of the most dramatic things in the book. It is his public career, however, that predominates. This is only reasonable, since the bulk of his writings had their origin in his political and professional activities; but for most readers, a detailed account of those activities will probably have the effect, initially at least, of somewhat diminishing his stature. A few points come across particularly strongly. He was intensely ambitious, and the greatest single disappointment of his career was his failure to obtain advancement in the Church of England — Ireland was a sad second-best for him. When he did throw himself into Irish affairs, and champion Irish rights against English injustice and neglect, it was with the voice of a "lone crusader" who nonetheless remained staunchly committed to the existing framework of English rule. 'Murphy's Romance' only mildly amusing By VINCENT CANBY The New York Times NEW YORK — Many years ago there used to be a series of short subjects titled—I think—' 'Screen Snapshots," which allowed the underprivileged in movie theaters to see how responsible Hollywood stars behaved at home, in private moments that were alternately playful and solemn. "Murphy's Romance" is rather like a cheerless chapter of "Screen Snapshots" that shows us not how Hollywood's great and near-great play, but how they goof off ! Review when they're supposed to be working. The movie is as pretty as a picture, mildly amusing and as phony as a laugh-track. It's only astonishing for being the work of serious and talented people — Martin Ritt, the director; Harriet Frank Jr., ana Irving Ravetch, the writers, and Sally Field, the Oscar-winning actress, the team responsible for "Norma Rae." "Murphy's Romance" could be a pilot for the kind of television series that gets axed in mid-season. The film means to be a May- September romance about a spunky, divorced woman of 33, Emma Mortality, and a small- town druggist, Murphy Jones, a widower and a grandfather. Yet the way it's cast, with the 40- ish Field as Emma and, as Murphy, James Garner (who, even with patently dyed black hair, doesn't look elderly), the romance dwindles down to something more like a June-July affair. Stars' talents give "White Nights' boost Review By BOB THOMAS Associated Press Writer In this era of high concept films from Hollywood, "White Nights" offers this nifty tale: Mikhail Baryshnikov, a Soviet ballet star who defects to the West, finds himself imprisoned in his native land when the jet he's on crashes in Siberia. Gregory Hines, an American who defects to the Soviet Union, is assigned to help convince Baryshnikov to resume his career there. The plot is a long stretch, but it succeeds most of the way, largely because of the soaring talents of the two stars and the sure-handed direction by Taylor Hackford ("An Officer and a Gentleman," "Against All Odds"). "White Nights" refers to the endless days of northern Russia, where most of the action takes Gregory Hines and Mikhail Baryshnikov dance together in "White Nights," a new film from Columbia Pictures. place. Baryshnikov, flying between appearances in London and Tokyo, survives the 747 crash and is quickly claimed by the KGB as a propaganda prize. KBG agent Jerzy Skolimowski enlists Hines, who has fallen out of favor and is touring the Siberian provinces with his Soviet wife, Isabella Rossellini. The two dancers are transported to Leningrad, where each becomes intrigued with the other's style. Hines realizes the error of his defection, and he joins the ballet star in a plot to escape. More a drama with dances than a musical, "White Nights" places a heavy responsibility on the acting of the two stars. Baryshnikov has the easier task, reflecting his real-life distaste for the repression of artists by the Soviet regime. Hines must deal with a less-defined character; the reasons for his defection during the Vietnam War remain unclear. Both have romantic conflicts: Baryshnikov with the ballerina (Helen- Mirrin) he left behind; Hines with a wife torn between love for her husband and her country. Perhaps because Hackford did not want "White Nights" to seem like a musical, the dances have been subordinated. Fans of Baryshnikov and Hines may be disappointed, but they can savor those moments when the two stars perform their specialties. Best sellers N.Y. Times News Service (Last week's ratings in parentheses) FICTION 1. The Mammoth Hunters, Jean Auel (1) 2. Lake Woebegon Days, Garrison Keillor (2) 3. Lie Down with Lions, KenFollett (-) 4. Cyclops, CliveCussler(6) S.Texas, JamesMichener(3) 6. Contact, Carl Sagan (4) 7. Secrets, Danielle Steel (5) 8. The Storyteller, Harold Bobbins (14) 9. Galapagos, Kurt Vonnegut (8) 10. London Match, Len Deighton (9) 11. What's Bred in the Bone, Robertson Davies(lO) * 12. The Accidental Tourist, Anne Tyler (7) ***>*1tl 13. World's Fan-, E.L.Doctorow(lS) 14. The Seventh Secret, Irving Wallace (-) 15. The Secrets of Harry Bright, Joseph Wambaugh (-) NON-FICTION 1. Yeager: An Autobiography, Chuck Yeager and Leo Janos (1) 2. lacocca: An Autobiography, Lee lacocca with William Novak (2) 3. Elvis and Me, Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (4) 4. Dancing In the Light, Shirley MacLane (3) 5. On the Road with Charles Kuralt, Charles Kuralt (6) 6. House, Tracy Kidder (7) 7.1 Never Played the Game, Howard Cosell with Peter Bonventre (5) 8. Comet, Carl Sagan and -Ann Druyan (8) 9. Only One Woof, James Herriot (12) 10. A Light hi the Attic, Shel SUverstein (9) 11. A Passion for Excellence, Tom Peters and Nancy Austin (10) 12. Smart Women, Foolish Choices, Cornell Cowan and Melvyn Kinder (15) 13. Shoot Low, Boys — They're Riding Shetland Ponies, Lewis Grizzard(-) 14. Common Ground, J. Anthony LUkas (11) 15. You Can Fool All of the People All of the Time, ArtBuchwald(14) ADVICE, HOW-TO, MISC. 1. Fit for Life, Harvey Diamond and Marilyn Diamond (1) 2. The Be (Happy) Attitudes, Robert Schuller(2) 3. Women Who Love Too Much, Robin Norwood (3) 4. Jane Brody's Good Food Book, Jane E.Brody(4) 5. Callanetics, Callan Pinckney with SallieBatson(-) New books at the Salina Public Library Contact, Carl Sagan Secrets, Danielle Steel Ferraro: My Story, Geraldine Ferraro The Vampire Lestat, Anne Rice A Remarkable Woman, Anne Edwards

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