The first collection of Howard Nemerov's random criticism, mostly from little magazines like the Kenyon and Sewanee reviews. Mr. Nemerov, of course, has more drag as a poet and novelist, and while there's nothing here that's going to change that score, it's pleasant to report that the retrospective group- roughly the pieces cover the last 15 years or so- stands up remarkably well. Mr. Nemerov has not an undistinguished mind; he's scholarly and sophisticated (two virtues which don't always go together); further, he sports a breezy, rather Audenesque brilliance: conversational, candid and, yes, charming. No, he's not systematic, and thus not too ""professional"". But he sails splendidly into Shakespeare, Byron, Stevens, Mann, Dante and various lesser lights and shades of the ""literary situation"", (considerably lesser as in the case of Peter Vicreck whom Mr. Nemerov, incidentally, turned thumbs-down on at a time when the former was very much touted). Generally his judgments are sturdy, almost always salutary, and there's epigrammatic elegance galore. Also, he's rewardingly human: an appreciation of Reed Whittemore, his friend, is the best in the book. Buy it.