In a prefatory note Horace Gregory says that he sees the critic's role as one which guides the reader off the beaten path and that the critic then must be as singular in his likes and dislikes as the writer himself. The critic functions, he thinks, in a spirit of war against the literary cliches of the day. This collection of essays (written since 1944) is characteristic of Gregory's attitudes: few men discussed in this book have suffered critical over-exposure, for example, Robinson Jeffers and Thomas Beddoes, though some have been dealt with before, such as Samuel Johnson and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Each writer is treated in terms of moral and theological stress but without the cant of modern explication and the encumbrances of weighty prose. Gregory's forte seems to lie with early twentieth century British writers -- Walter De La Mare, Wyndham Lewis, George Moore, James Joyoe, yet he writes acutely of a handful of Americans. It is a straightforward book of essays which reads as if the writers were being critically confronted for the first time. The title is from an essay on Samuel Beckett. Gregory says that Beckett treats his people as though they were neither damned nor blessed: they die immortal, but anonymous deaths. He considers this a characteristic of the writers he has chosen to explicate.