Mr. Wolfe purports to describe the vicissitudes of the odd bond between a singleminded ruler and a strongminded writer from 1917 to 1921. He insists however on using the subject as an arena for broadsides against Lenin and the Bolsheviks. His purpose would have been better served by omitting the shrill pomposities about ""totalitarianism"" and letting the selected facts speak for themselves. The literary-minded reader would be better served had he bothered to explain who the SRs were, what Leninist terms like ""petty-bourgeois spontaneity"" mean, etc. As it is the author's tendentious preoccupations often suffocate his fascinating raw material (from Lenin's reactions to Gorky's work to Gorky's involvement with the Famine Relief Committee). He fails to elucidate the problems implied by his study: was Gorky an apolitical humanist, as some writings suggest, a programmatic social-democrat as others indicate...or confused, or simply inconsistent? Gorky's role as a cultural leader and Lenin's views on literature are already familiar and will become more so before the anniversary is over. In short: a marginal topic wrought by a big name into a meretricious book.