Books: Nostalgic Scramble

FROM THE CRASH TO THE BLITZ: 1929-1939 by Cabell Phillips. 596 pages. Macmillan. $12.50.

What explains the popularity of the only-yesterday school of history? Is it the reassuringly manageable look? Chaos neatly packaged with all the shapeliness of the Farmer's Almanac. Is it the pleasant mood of nostalgia? One's youth staged under soft lights to the music of Guy Lombardo. Is it the chewy, toothsome presence of facts? Dates, names and practically nothing else.

Whatever the reason, just feed readers those scenario-setting lines like "Saturday, March 4, 1933, was a raw, blustery day in...

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