The sort of literary potpourri that often makes its way into book form posthumously. Fortunately, distinguished author/economist/diplomat Galbraith is still alive, and well enough to provide brief introductions to the impeccably wrought trifles that comprise this generally entertaining and often provocative assortment of previously published (and here slightly altered) essays, reviews, journal excerpts, and letters. The varied items are loosely blocked under headings such as ""A Small Clutch of Letters"" and ""A Traveler's Guide,"" but the real glue holding this rather haphazard collection together is Galbraith's humanistic, liberal sensibility, a classically-trained orientation that applies rigorous--very rigorous--standards to people, politics, economics, and art. With an aristocrat's assuredness, Galbraith writes on arms control, economics, writers (including a delightful skewering of William F. Buckley), Harvard, Indian art, and, most engagingly, on the historical figures he has known or admired. It is in these portraits, sketched with a deft hand, that Galbraith's wisdom and deep compassion, elsewhere sometimes defused through archness, shine most clearly--particularly in his elegaic homages to the slain Kennedy brothers, his brotherly tribute to close friend David Niven, and a scathing but fair assessment of Richard Nixon. Those in search of the essential Galbraith are advised to look elsewhere; this is but a coda, albeit a pleasurable one, to a long and brilliant career.