A vertiginous dash through the mind of a highly idiosyncratic and inventive writer. Lispector, the Brazilian novelist (The Hour of the Star, 1990, etc.), was from 1967 to 1973 also a columnist for the Jornal do Brasil, the largest newspaper in Rio de Janeiro. This collection of 156 of her columns (crìnicas) makes the work of her American counterparts, from that of Anna Quindlen to Jimmy Breslin, seem predictable, narrowly focused, and pedestrian. If a newspaper column can be compared with a social visit from the writer, who drops by often enough to become a friend, then Lispector can be said to be an enchanting, unnerving, and sometimes giddy visitor. She casts a wide net in these pieces. There are some deeply cryptic gleanings. (``I dreamed that a fish was taking its clothes off and remained naked'' is the entire text of one piece.) There are also several series of full-fledged stories, including ``The Princess,'' told in five parts, and ``The Egg and the Chicken,'' told in three. Other columns resemble conventional feature writing. ``Lightning Interview with Pablo Neruda (II),'' for example, poses questions to the poet and duly provokes answers. ``Does writing make the anguish of living more bearable?'' Lispector asks. She further asks to the poet to ``say something to surprise me.'' Most of the time, the need to surprise herself seems to guide the columns, and the result is a body of work likely to give pause to North Americans, who seem to prefer their journalism straightforward and flat-footed. Lispector's is headily expansive, a reprieve from the usual. Of course, the pressure to write for each Saturday edition does lead to various ups and downs; the downs include facile moments when even Lispector's imagination temporarily folds its tent. But the stumbling is rare. A provocative revision of journalistic possibilities.