Further speculations and pronouncements from the highly regarded Parisian philosopher (History and Utopia, 1987, etc.), as varied in their subjects as in their depth. ``In any book governed by the Fragment, truths and whims keep company throughout.'' Thus Cioran begins a collection of literary portraits (de Maistre, Beckett, Borges, Fitzgerald) intermingled with aphorisms and random thoughts. The whims are apparent from the start. This is a book of meditation and conceit, in which the personality of the author is brought forcibly to bear upon every subject under consideration. The result is a kind of confession, Pascal-like in its intensity. Cioran's highly personal, almost confidential tone is most appropriate when he examines those figures who were known to him in real lifeBeckett, for example, or Eliadeor whose histories share important features with his own (such as Fitzgerald, whose long struggle with depression provides the subject for one of the most insightful pieces in the book). Cioran's lack of clear focus can be tiresome, howeverespecially in his reflections on de Maistre, where he examines the notions of ``Utopia'' and ``reaction'' from too many angles and at too great a length. His aphorisms are diverse and unorganized, and range from the striking (``To be called a deicide is the most flattering insult that can be addressed to an individual'') to the banal (``One can be proud of what one has d one, but one should be much prouder of what one has not done''). The final chapter, which speaks of the creative impulse and the urge to write''to vomit up one's secrets''is succinct and moving. Brilliant and delightfully opinionated, if a bit verbose. Not a book to be read straight through, but one with enough substance to satisfy anyone.