This collection of nearly 200 short reviews and literary pieces--probably necessarily uneven in quality given the publish-in-haste nature of his book reviewing--demonstrates Burgess' broad learning and also his habitual critical highhandedness. The university don that Burgess--foiled by WW II--never became lurks close beneath the anything-for-a-buck man of letters and learned journalist of his current persona, ever ready to snap at bright objects--or dullards. Burgess includes among the dullards all feminists ("Grants from a Sexist Pig" heads the volume), most American scholars (Yankophobe Burgess finds Edmund Wilson's Anglophobia incomprehensible), and Daniel Defoe (whose Robinson Crusoe Burgess compares--outrageously--to P.C. Wren's Beau Geste). Burgess does like James Thurber, Vladimir Nabokov, and Princess Grace of Monaco--although his sketches of the first two never mention their celebrated crochetiness; but perhaps this master of the crochet never noticed a certain peevishness. If occasionally willful, these essays are also occasionally memorable in their epigrammatic succinctness. Another asset is Burgess' lack of prudery. He writes of Norman Mailer's Ancient Evenings: "Give it a few years. . .it may well appear as one of the great works of contemporary mythopoesis. It certainly gives us a new look up the anus." As Burgess says himself in reviewing a volume of S.J. Perelman's short pieces, this is not the kind of book to go through in one sitting--the repetitions and tics become too obvious. (Burgess notes Perelman's repetition of the odd word "lagniappe"; he is himself addicted to the equally recondite "onomastic.") Still, since the literary turf of the educated reader--judgments about the comparative merits of contemporary writers, or the probable duration of literary reputations--is now almost ignored both by the increasingly theoretical academic journals and the increasingly illiterate schlock media, intelligent and impassioned practical critics like Burgess perform a real service. Forgive him his obtuse remarks.