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Even though most of these pieces were written for the highly respected London Times, any collection of short reviews is bound to look a little like an etagere of critical bric-a-brac. Cyril Connolly is decidedly Eton and Balliol, '20's vintage (viz., his nostalgic memoir of elegant Oxford's temps perdu) and his opening essays on travel abroad are redolent of that sort of taste and cultivation. But Connolly is above all a seasoned bookman in that British tradition that combines intellectual rigor and wit with a genuine love of letters. These British critics are really so much more sporting than our own. Connolly reads new books (the reviews are dated from the '60's and early '70's) about Swift, Pope, Boswell, Flaubert, Wilde, with an open curiosity. He ruminates around them, offers his observations, concludes almost always not with the thunder of pronunciamento, but with a summing quotation. The heart of this book is his assessment of his contemporaries -- the modern writers he cut his intellectual teeth On, grew up and old with -- particularly Proust, Eliot, Pound, Orwell, Huxley, the Sitwells, Gide, Auden, Fleming. His irreverence toward younger writers, especially Mailer (who wears an expression ""as of a large rough dog waiting for a ball to be thrown which one is already tired of throwing"") and Genet (finds him dull) is funny. The pity is in the sketchiness of these literary review impressions -- easily and pleasurably read, but not big enough to inspire more than a glancing, casual admiration from passers-by.

Pub Date: Jan. 15th, 1974
ISBN: 015629060X
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich