Composer, director of galleries, critic for the now defunct New York Herald Tribune, jack-of-all-arts around the quasi-bohemia of New York in the '50's, John Gruen (Close-Up, 1968) has the credentials for writing an intense and intensely gossipy recollection of the young and the talented in the demi-world of the up-and-coming and on-the-make artists of the period. Among those remembered in their salad days: Barney Rosset, who launched Grove Press; Julian and Judith Beck of the Living Theater; Jackson Pollock, Bill de Kooning, poets Kenneth Koch and Frank O'Hara; Jack Gelber; Edward Albee and many more -- all living, back then, ""in that frenzy of not wanting to miss anything."" Boswell-like, Gruen glides through the tangled love affairs (hetero and homo), personal eccentricities, professional jealousies, and incestuous collaborations of a group that was often self-consciously outre and always self-conspicuously in the vanguard of abstract expressionism, Pop Art, and experimental off-Broadway theater. Gruen writes in a casual discursive style with the ironic distancing of ten years, letting friends and friends of friends reminisce at leisure on the inbred excitement of ""little magazines,"" cooperative art galleries, and informal partying at Greenwich Village bars. Not that he was in on everything: the rise of Kerouac and Ginsberg and the Beats, the world of coffee-house poetry readings, and the flowering of the Village Voice don't seem to touch his set which, for all the insistence on innovation and youthful exuberance, now seems a bit staid and conservative. Sic tempus fugit.