Books: Mother Knows Best?

A MOTHER IN HISTORY by Jean Stafford. 121 pages. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $3.95.

Jean Stafford (The Mountain Lion, Children Are Bored on Sunday) has a reputation for writing impressively about all sorts of unpleasant human woes and misfortunes—accidents, operations, psychic fear in children. But this is by far her most thoroughly unpleasant book—perhaps the most abrasively unpleasant book in recent years—and it required no writing talent at all.

On three successive days, Author Stafford merely set a tape recorder whirling and asked 58-year-old Marguerite Oswald, mother of Lee Harvey Oswald, to talk nonstop. She complied readily, for a price of course ($1,500)....

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