Malcolm (The Journalist and the Murderer, 1990, etc.) explores psychoanalysis, art, literature, and her native Czechoslovakia in this provocative collection of essays, all of which originally appeared in either The New Yorker or The New York Review of Books. The first third of the book, consisting of four essays on psychoanalysis, plays in a minor key on themes in Malcolm's In the Freud Archives (1984) and Psychoanalysis (1981), including Freud's accidental discovery of transference in the famous ``Dora'' case and attempts by today's practitioners to refurbish the movement's ``sagging and peeling mansion.'' Malcolm's erudition is seen to its best advantage in a series of reviews that cover Milan Kundera; Thomas Eakins; Tom Wolfe; Ved Mehta; V†clav Havel's prison letters to his wife; a memoir of New Guinea; and the now-little-read Victorian Sir Edmund Gosse (letters by Gosse's contemporary defenders, Malcolm says, ``form an authoritative primer on how to write comforting bullshit on demand''). The three extended profiles that conclude the book--on an unorthodox therapist whose session the author observes through a one-way mirror; on Artforum editor Ingrid Sischy; and on a former Czech dissident adjusting to career and political uncertainties in post-Communist Czechoslovakia--show how Malcolm can fascinate as often as she irritates. Her sense of irony sometimes manages to disrupt the placid surface of her lengthy, quote-laden journalism (reading Jay Haley, a writer in the social-science field, ``is like being in the bedroom of a charming cad''). But it can also, for instance, make one wonder why Malcolm feels the New York art world is worth so much attention if so many of its artists and critics, as depicted here, are such pretentious boors. Malcolm at her lucid, informed, sometimes too-clever-by-half best, and minus the questionable journalism characterized by her imbroglios with Fatal Vision author Joe McGinniss and renegade Freud researcher Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson.