Taking the role of critic as that of ambassador and advocate rather than judge, Davenport writes of his enthusiasms and studies with variety, originality, and humor. Most of these 20 essays collected from various literary quarterlies are book reviews, though the reviews generally serve as mere springboards. Among the subjects are Henri Rousseau, Nabokov's Don Quixote, and American architecture: ""Transcendental Satyr,""a study of e.e. cummings is particularly fine. At the core of these essays is a set of three lectures that make up a sort of articles of faith. The first, ""The Artist as Critic,"" traces the ways the old stories are made new, concluding that ""the best books are old books rewritten. . .The tribe has its tales."" ""The Scholar as Critic"" is a delightfully honest trek in search of the meaning of Charles Olson's poem ""The Kingfisher."" It is a refreshing view of how a critic can approach a difficult text, though it doesn't convince one of obscurantism's value. The last lecture, ""The Critic as Artist,"" shows how the modern artist has forced criticism to act as a permanent consort. Literature shows and makes us feel, leaving criticism to say what it might mean. Though these essays are no larks--no discussion of Joyce, Beckett, or Balthus could be--neither are they laden with the oblique and magisterial. In a field where bombast and crankiness are too common, Davenport combines erudition, humility and humanity.