of the American Dream. So — here wenare. To study bad taste is to look in thennational mirror. These authors avertedntheir eyes from the big picture, andnblinked at the most revelatory implicationsnof bad taste.nBut one good thing about their BadnTaste is that, though they omittednOprah Winfrey, Kitty Dukakis, andnPhil Donohue, the dust jacket doesnfeature a picture of Jane and MichaelnStern.nJ.O. Tate is a professor of English atnDowling College on Long Island.nThe Key to Victorynby Alan J. LevinenBrute Force: Allied Strategy andnTactics in the Second World Warnby John EllisnNew York: Viking;n643 pp., $29.95nJohn Ellis, a well-known British militarynhistorian, has made a majorncontribution to our understanding ofnthe nature of World War II with annunflattering reappraisal of the effectivenessnand leadership of the Allied forces.nHis views are not always just, but henraises issues that, while not totally ignored,nhave usually been confrontednonly on a piecemeal basis by othernhistorians. It is the merit of Brute Forcennot that it uncovers things that arenentirely new — though it sometimesndoes that too — but that it creates annew way of looking at things.nEllis presents two arguments. First,nthat Allied superiority in industrialnstrength and at least potential militarynforce, rendered an Axis military victorynimpossible, or nearly impossible, atnleast from the point the United Statesnentered the war. Indeed, while manynpeople, including Winston Churchill,nhave regarded Pearl Harbor as the truenturning point of the war, Ellis stronglynimplies that an Axis victory was nevernin the cards at all, although he does notnexplicitly formulate this idea. Ellis marshalsnconsiderable evidence to shownthat, contrary to widespread belief, thenBritish were never close to losing thenBattle of Britain, nor were the Alliesnclose to losing the Battle of the Atlan­ntic. The available German air and seanforces were just too small to securenvictory in those crucial engagements.nMore doubtfully, he argues that thenNazis never had any chance of winningnthe Russian campaign.nEllis’s main thesis, however, is thatnafter the tide of war had swung firmlynin favor of the Allies, their poor tacticsnand grasp of the conduct of operationsnmade the war far longer and costiiernthan necessary. The Allies smashedntheir enemies by “brute force” — primarilynmassive firepower, rather thannimaginative maneuver and tactics. Industrialnstrength was the key to victory.nOf the many critical battlefields, henpoints out, Detroit was not the leastnsignificant. That,insight would notnhave startled anyone in the 1940’s, butnits truth has since been obscured by thencults woven around some Allied leaders,nand, sadly, by the fact that Detroitnis not what it once was.nThere is plenty of justification fornEllis’s strictures on Allied tactics andnleadership in the field; as Lord Alexandernonce admitted, the Germans weren”quicker” than the Allied ground forcesnat just about everything. The West­nBRIEF MENTIONSnern armies, in general, were slow, inflexible,nand unimaginative at all levels,nwhile the British especially were hamperednby poor tank tactics and failure innsecuring cooperation between differentnarms. The Soviets were even worse,naddicted to crude, repetitive frontalnattacks and a senseless disregard fornlosses. Nor were the top Western commandersnoutstanding. Ellis is, if anything,nparticulady harsh with his ownncountry’s leaders, expressing genuinenanger at Sir Arthur Harris and hisninsensate persistence with the policy ofnarea bombing of German cities inn1944-1945. Field Marshal Montgomery,nonce widely regarded by the Britishnas a second Wellington, comes offnalmost as badly. Ellis speaks of hisn”distrust of maneuver” and “balefulninfluence” on operations. But Montgomery’snmany (and amply justified)nAmerican critics will not be pleased tonfind that George Patton does not comenoff all that much better. Ellis allowsnthat, unlike his British bete noire, Pattonnwas clever at exploiting breaks innthe enemy front, but not so good atncreating them or at actually destroyingnenemy forces. In this case, and somenKNUT HAMSUN: SELECTED LETTERSnVolume I, 1879-98nEdited by Harald Naess and James McFarland ‘nNorwich, England: Norvik Press; 306 pp., $45.00n(Distributed in the U.S. by Dufour Editions, Chester Springs, PA)nLike Strindberg, Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun struggled all his life against thenprovincial limitations of being a writer in a generally unknown Scandinavian language,nand his affection for Germany, which continued through World War II and for whichnhe was to be branded, like Pound, as mentally “impaired,” can perhaps be explainednby the desire of a man to be remembered in what was and is, for better or worse, thenmost culturally powerful country in Europe.nBorn Knut Pedersen in 1859 to a poor tailor and farmer (he took his penname fromnhis uncle’s farm of Hamsund, where he grew up), Hamsun was largely self-taught andnself-created. If these letters are any indication of what took up most of his time, he wasnalso tirelessly and perhaps necessarily self-promoting. But he was talented, too, andnthese letters cover the years in which he wrote some of his best books: the powerful andnautobiographical novel Hunger, the wonderful Pan, and Mysteries. Hamsun alsonspent several of these years (1882-84 and 1886-88) in America, in Wisconsin,nMinneapolis, and Chicago, and a good number of the letters here were written innEnglish, specifically those to his German publisher, Albert Langen. For as hisneditors note, despite Hamsun’s great sympathy for Germany, it was a country hennever knew and a language he never learned to speak.nMany of these letters are about money, or the lack of it, but they are valuable fornthe occasional glimpse one has of the great figures of his day, and for the insightnthey give to a very talented writer, and one who deserves greater attention andnappreciation in this country.n— Katherine DaltonnnnMAY 1991/43n