Once at a dull party the hostess asked, ""Are you enjoying yourself, Mr. Shaw?"" ""Yes"", replied CBS, ""but that's all I'm enjoying"".... George P. Elliott seems to be in similar straits; attending the culture scene of contemporary America he deems it, more often than not, a blithering bore, but on how he enjoys hearing himself tell us why, and how we enjoy listening. One of the new breed of novelist-essayists, Elliott writes a strong, swinging straight-from-the-shoulder prose, personal, eminently provoking and hugely erudite, even though the erudition is generally covered up with a just-Joe-Schmo pose, a necessary stance, probably, since first and last Elliott's an anti-cult man, i.e. anti-highbrow. Here are some of the animadversions: the cult of the violent experience (Yeats, Lawrence, Miller, Mailer); of the social psychologists, the pure problem solvers; of the In People, e.g. Barzun, Trilling, McCarthy: of the new Critics and the masterpiece-or-nothing school- ""rather have a bucket full of goat's milk"", says Elliott, than the Metropolitan's well-wrought urns; of Freud and James (The Princess Casamassima is likened to Tarzan); of Pound (whom he gives, nevertheless, a brilliant exegesis); and of California (a howling assault on cold war lunacy). His loves make an odd bundle: Chandler, Twain, Orwell, Dante, Tolstoy. Every so often he gets carried away. But all in all, a humdinger of a collection.