It's hard to imagine just whom this book is intended for. Those in the know will already be familiar with the ""songpoets"" discussed from records and concerts; those not initiated won't give a damn. Still Sarlin does provide cogent and creditable -- not especially profound -- interpretations of the lyrics and music of Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman, Van Morrison, Laura Nyro, et al. -- those performers who largely write their own material and believe that lots of electronic noise is no substitute for intelligence, humor and craftsmanship. So if you dig Laura Nyro you'll probably agree that her strength is that special combination of ""street smarts"" and an intense ""religio-erotic"" fantasy life; or that sardonic compactness and black humor are the forte of Randy Newman (though there's much, much, more to his aberrations and his compassion). But many of Sarlin's likes and dislikes seem quirky and questionable. James Taylor may be an idol of the teenyboppers but is that a priori a reason to dismiss him? Has the man listened to ""Fire and Rain"" or ""Carolina in My Mind""? On the other hand, why all the reverence for Don MacLean, the one-shot wonder of ""American Pie""? And Sarlin very quickly runs out of steam so that Leonard Cohen and Neal Young are sloughed off; and Melanie, Kris Kristopherson, Gordon Lightfoot and Carly Simon aren't even mentioned. An erratic book, neither comprehensive enough nor insightful enough to matter.