Edmund Wilson, the dean of literary journalism, the author of Axel's Castle, the man who refuses to acknowledge unsolicited mail, unpublished manuscripts, or any mass-media requests, friend of legendary figures and a bit of a legend himself, 71 years old and still pouring forth, the only contemporary reviewer ever to have reprinted his "literary chronicles" from the Twenties onwards to the present, a polyglot, a paragon of taste, honored by all, even the White House- how pleasant, then, to attack so prestigious a personage! Alas, one cannot: The Bit Between My Teeth, a two volume collection of his pieces (mostly from The New Yorker) produced over the last fifteen years, offers not the slightest occasion. One is reduced to repeating the same boring encomiums: Wilson is delightful asia stylist, far ranging in his interests, a scholar of the first rank but never a pedant, judicious, adventurous, brilliant. Here you will find two splendid studies of Pasternak and Zhivago, an unusual assessment of Eliot, lengthy, learned accounts of Swinburne, de Sade, Cabell, Malraux. The variety of subject matter is, as always, striking: Mencken, Shaw and Beerbohm, as well as the philologists Partridge and Tolkien; the Holmes-Laski correspondence and Kennan on Russia; books about mushrooms and home furnishings; Dawn Powell's Greenwich Village and something wonderful called "My Fifty Years with Dictionaries and Grammars ("...and I have discovered that reviewing conjugations and declensions is a very effective device for putting oneself to sleep"). Wilson's great gift is his ability to instruct painstakingly yet painlessly, to make vivid the most abstruse material; never windy, never inflated, reading him is always to be in touch with literature and life.