This is a somewhat boggling, tough-to-classify homily that leaves the reader both irked and charmed. Like his fiction -- ornery, personal, yet vast in scope -- this book examines such pro-found problems (fiction and reality, artist and society) in such an impressionistic, curmudgeonly way that one is engaged in spite of one's self. Novels are but one form of fiction, he writes; all ""facts"" are imaginary constructions. We must separate the good stuff from the bad. What standard can we use beyond ""taste""? Morris suggests that our language -- which weaves the spells for our lives -- is a crucial matter. Vernacular, whether vulgarized by Spillane or glorified by Whitman, can liberate, but it can also enslave and limit ""like the curved lens of a camera."" ""Truth-to-life"" is ultimately another artificial model of reality. These are tired, shopworn aesthetic problems, but they are posed here succinctly, warmly, personally. Morris beats a dead horse when he lambastes the symbol-hunters, the writers who value ""making it new,"" etc., and -- again, his larger vision -- asserts, ""At this moment in the twentieth century our predicament is an aggregate achievement that only the individual imagination is empowered to relieve."" Fiction and collective consciousness are inseparable. . . . Idiosyncratic, curious, likable propaganda.