Essays selected from twenty years of newspaper and magazine contributions. Vidal with his rapid, lightly acerbic intonations, has produced a spirited set of commentaries on literature, politics, personalities, and social drifts. From a ""mandarin"" beginning, written in the days of the ""Great Golfer"" in which he takes on critical absolutism and the emerging anti-anthoritatian novels of the '40's, Vidal assesses, from his comer of Missouri, such literary luminaries as E. Nesbit (a charming appreciation), Henry Miller (""never since Frank Harris has there been such a record of success in the sack""), Sontag (her ""intelligence is still greater than her talent""), Meredith, Mailer, John O'Hara (for all his faults, ""a reliable witness to our self-regard, boredom, and terror"") and on to ""Gore Vidal"". Via his family ties with American politics, Vidal offers scratchy if sinewy estimates of the Kennedys -- J.F.K. (""...he is capable of growth. He intends to be great."") and the family (""The Kennedy children have always observed our world from the heights""). There is a moving, personal tribute to Mrs. Roosevelt and a warning Orwellian interview with Barry Goldwater. Included also are the two famous Vidal exercises in cautionary hilarity -- an account of Ambassador Annenberg's antics in England and a review of Dr. Reuben sex manual. A representative collection broadened and deepened by a public conscience and honest affection.