Rudyard Kipling, with his unhappy life, mainly unacceptable political views, and very mixed literary achievements, has nevertheless attracted a large number of practicing writers to read him closely, more in puzzlement than in strong defense. Angus Wilson has overlooked no detail of the political scene in which Kipling was too often embroiled, and not even the most minor and unsuccessful of the stories. Unfortunately, his circular approach--first, a chapter of the life, and then the stories related to that part of the life--makes for a too-long book; the method compels overlapping. But his thesis, announced in his first pages, will keep Kipling scholars and buffs debating for a long time. Children's sense of time and distance, Wilson posits, are the nearest we can come to practical truth; children's imaginings are our closest approach to reality. That Kipling remained a child, unwilling or afraid to question motives, accounts for many weaknesses in his life, as in the works. It also accounts for the magic and power that are so uniquely his. Wilson comes out strongly in favor of the Indian opus, Kim in particular, with a nod to the Sussex stories, Puck of Pook's Hill and Rewards and Fairies. Here he differs from the criticism of 30 years ago, which saw in Kipling's cloudy, unachieved late tales something Jamesian and deliciously mysterious. Whatever its own weaknesses, this is a massive and careful book that will take its place immediately among the starred items in any future Kipling bibliography.