Scores of essays, reviews, and obituaries by the insightful, irascible critic (A Sinking lsland, A Colder Eye, etc.). Harvested from previous publication in magazines like Harper's, the Times Literary Supplement, Discover, and Architectural Digest, the pieces cover subjects ranging from the title essay's--an eclectic survey of mazes in gardens, computer science, topology, and airports--to a guide to ""Decoding Roland Barthes""; a look at ""The Untidy Desk and the Larger Order of Things"" (""Shakespeare's glorious vocabulary extended to 29,066 words that we know of, yet just 40 of them make up fully 40 percent of the plays. . .The 40-40 rule and my own discovery. Of any extensive text sample, just 40 words will make up 40 percent""); a charming homage to Charles Chaplin; and a scathing review of The Random House Encyclopedia (""a great big poly-chromed gee-whiz pacifier sputtering facts and unfacts like a wobbly Roman candle""). Minor Kenner, overall, but brimming with original thoughts and plenty fun to roam around in.