Books: Leviathans

THE SWAY OF THE GRAND SALOON by JOHN MALCOLM BRINNIN 599 pages. Delacorte. $15.

The reader wonders, as he pages with almost guilty pleasure through this grand, swaying history of the great North Atlantic steamships: can the $15 hardback leviathan survive in an age that buys its books from newsstands, reads them in an hour, and discards them like banana peels? The Sway of the Grand Saloon is huge, solid, stately, absurdly lavish, its noble dust jacket encrusted with gilt. Its whorled endpapers are the work of Niebelungian trolls who never see the sun. Its paper, far from being recycled, might be...

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