Essays on everything from Pol Pot to bourgeois poets on the government dole are penetrating and achingly accurate in this collection by the founder of a now-defunct, respected literary magazine, Montemora. The book is divided into two parts--Inventions of Asia and Inventions of Poetry: the first, regional, the second, literary. In both there are social, historical and political analyses of pith and substance. The author first looks at the East as imagined by the West and goes on to such exotic topics as Matteo Ricci, a 16th-century Jesuit missionary in China, prostitutes in Bombay and an excellent study of benighted Kampuchea. He is aware of Eastern philosophy, poetry and social systems as is evident in the essay entitled ""A Few Don'ts for Chinese Poets."" For those more caught up in Western culture, he offers us fresh, stimulating opinions on Langston Hughes, Kenneth Rexroth, Charles Reznikoff, Octavio Paz and others. There's Allen Ginsberg and his guru with a million dollars in real estate--America's hunger for meaning gone whacky. Whatever Weinberger touches upon--and he covers many topics not mentioned here--he does with a deft and insightful intelligence. His homage to Kenneth Rexroth is not only the best thing said about an often-dismissed poet, but is a touching memoir. He even includes Whittaker Chambers in his pantheon of weirdos, heroes, saints and rogues and manages to bring something new to this man's story. Literate and entertaining, this is an impressive wingding of intellectual prowess. And it's a pleasure to read.