A collection of 49 pieces, mostly book reviews, by the outspoken critic for New York and other magazines. Simon's opinions are likely to pique at least as many readers as they delight, but there is no question that he deals authoritatively and often wittily with an impressive range of literary topics. His book is divided into six main sections on literature of various linguistic or national areas: American, English, French, German and Austrian, Slavic, Italian, and Hispanic. Most of the authors discussed are 20th-century figures: from Shaw, Kafka, and Sartre to Didion, Eco, and Brodsky. In his introduction and conclusion, the author presents some critical principles: tradition and ""the traditional language of criticism"" are energetically defended and opposed to doctrines of structuralism, semiotics, and deconstruction. For Simon, the duty of the critic is to explain literature so as to make it more accessible to lay readers and experts alike. For example, in his review of Under the Sign of Saturn, he admires Susan Sontag's ""subtle and illuminating interpretations,"" but chastises her for being obscure: he respects her enthusiasm, but regrets certain applications of it. In the meantime, Simon professes to follow an old-fashioned and somewhat Arnoldian program of seeing literature steadily and seeing it whole, making no attempt to construct a formal system to separate the literary ""sheep"" from the ""goats."" Simon's individualistic--some would say idiosyncratic--judgments are far from being definitive; their value lies in the distinctive tone of the author's voice, and in his canny ability to engage readers and to stimulate them to respond.