Mr. Noon, by D.H. Lawrence. Edited by Lindeth Vasey. Introduction by Melvyn Bragg. New York: Penguin. 382 pp. $7.95. The manuscript of this unfinished novel was lost for half a century. It did not turn up until 1972, when it was bought at auction by the University of Texas Humanities Research Center. Although the first part, set in England, had been published before, the second part, set on the Continent, was first published only in 1984. In these two, quite dissimilar sections, D.H. Lawrence provides a pair of self-portraits. The first (which resembles him, although he denied the resemblance) is of an engaging young schoolteacher exhausting the possibilities of life in a drab provincial town. The second is of a young man poised on the brink of unknown experiences as he sets foot in Germany. Here, Lawrence gives us a candid, unrevised picture of his own courtship and marriage, which may be compared to his poetic treatment of the subject in ``Look! We Have Come Through!'' (Were Mr. Noon a young girl from the provinces and the free-spirited woman he marries an aristocratic German man, feminist critics would have a field day with the plot that unfolds in these pages.) Lawrence's exceptional gift for evoking natural scenery (there's a splendid walk through the Alps), his determination to explore human feelings, and his frankness in portraying the difficulties of what he'd hoped would be a perfect marriage make this manifestly unfinished book well worth reading. Spinoza, by Roger Scruton. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. Past Master Series. 122 pp. $3.95 (also available in cloth).
Ostracized from the Amsterdam Jewish community for his heretical views, Benedict de Spinoza (1632-1677) emerges as an early champion of freedom of thought, yet also as one of the last descendants of a medieval Aristotelian tradition, which he had received from Jewish and Muslim interpreters. Roger Scruton, whose recent book ``Sexual Desire'' sparked considerable commentary, has written an interesting and provocative guide. It not only sets forth Scruton's perception of Spinoza, but also assumes a function like that of a voltage converter, interposing itself between Spinoza's exacting use of language and our own, quite different use of the same terms. Each volume in this series, in addition to providing solid background material and clear exposition, has an individuality and distinctiveness a lot like the charisma of a popular professor, and Scruton's is no exception. Landmarks of World Literature, general editor, J.P. Stern: Homer: The Iliad, by Michael Silk; Dante: The Divine Comedy, by Robin Kirkpatrick; Rousseau: Confessions, by Peter France; Goethe: Faust (Part I), by Nicholas Boyle; Dickens: Bleak House, by Graham Storey; Woolf: The Waves, by Eric Warner. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. About 128 pp. each. $5.95 each (also available in cloth).
These are the first six titles of a new reference series under the general editorship of comparative-literature scholar J.P. Stern. Each volume focuses on a single great work, covering the basic ground of historical, biographical, and textual scholarship, examining the given work in the context of its time and place, and attending to the details of a reasonably ``close reading'' as well. This solid approach, along with features like a chronology and bibliography, will make these books useful to students of literature and to readers in search of single-step background reading. These guides are not, of course, substitutes for the reader's own responses, but are a means of orientation. Personified as a professor, this series might well be one of whom students would say: ``He can be dry at times, but if you pay attention, there's a lot you can learn from him. And he's always willing to explain.'' The Late, Great Pennsylvania Station, by Lorraine B. Diehl. Lexington, Mass.: Stephen Greene Press, dist. by Viking Penguin. 167 pp. Illustrated. $12.95.
The destruction of Pennyslvania Station in the early 1960s, scarcely half a century after the building's completion, left statues and girders sprawled in the New Jersey marshes and erased from the cityscape one of its most notable pieces of architecture. The shock gave enormous impetus to passing laws to protect other landmarks from a similar fate. This attractive, very well illustrated book pays tribute to the grand old edifice by recounting the colorful tale of its rise and fall. It is a story of railroads and their role in American history, of engineering marvels (because the terminus was on Manhattan Island, tunnels had to be dug under the East and Hudson rivers to Long Island and New Jersey for the trains), and of architectural visions inspired, quite literally, by the grandeur that was Rome. Diehl tells the story in rich detail, with intelligence and infectious - though never blind - enthusiasm. Amo, Amas, Amat and More: How to Use Latin to Your Own Advantage and to the Astonishment of Others, by Eugene Ehrlich. Introduction by William F. Buckley Jr. New York: Perennial Library/Harper & Row. 328 pp. $7.95.
For those of us who would like to sparkle our conversation with Latin phrases, for the many more who encounter Latin sayings - often unfamiliar and always untranslated - in the books we read, and for the fortunate few who have friends and colleagues fond of lapsing into Latin, here is help: an alphabetical list of frequently used phrases, complete with pronunciation guide and translations, both literal and idiomatic. Whether or not the dedicated reader will succeed in astonishing others, as promised in the subtitle, he or she will doubtless be amused and instructed by this lighthearted but useful guide.