Twelve interviews, circa 1974-1981, from the Paris Review--with a fine, chatty, unpretentious introduction by Frank Kermode. (""He who writes an introduction such as this must always seek patterns, resemblances, significant differences; but the reader may well rejoice in randomness. . ."") Literary gossip is featured in many of the conversations, of course--in dullish form from Stephen Spender, in over-familiar/tacky form from Tennessee Williams, in incomparably waspish form from 88-year-old Rebecca West. (Yeats ""wasn't a bit impressive. . .He boomed at you like a foghorn""; ""Leonard Woolf had a tiresome mind. . .but he was certainly good to Virginia. I couldn't forgive Vanessa Bell for her awful muddy decorations. . ."" Etc.) And Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.--whose interview is a selfmade composite of four Paris Review attempts--recycles his preoccupations in studied, heavily flip fashion. Elsewhere, however, there is substantial entertainment/illumination--as the writers discuss their work, their influences, their sources, their habits. Bernard Malamud is eloquent, ever-metaphorical. (Is narrative dead or dying? ""It'll be dead when the penis is."") The late William Goyen is serious yet warmly engaging whether saluting Pound's Cantos or recalling his Taos days in the Frieda Lawrence circle. Nadine Gordimer contributes concrete information (how books get banned and un-banned in South Africa) as well as a generally broader perspective. James Merrill is predictably arch yet cogent about his esthetics. (Referring to another interviewee, Elizabeth Bishop: ""It was du cotÃ‰ de chez Elizabeth. . .that I saw the daily life that took my fancy even more, with its kind of random, Chekhovian surface, open to trivia and funny surprises, or even painful ones, today a fit of weeping, tomorrow a picnic."") And the other, slightly disappointing talks feature John Gardner, Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. A solid addition to a worthy series.