John Wain, one of the former not so angry young men, has now reached the modulated middle distance as evident in his house of truth with its firm foundations in tradition, continuity, totality -- disregarding the straws in the wind of ""pop art and instant kulch' as well as other straitjacketing ""criteria. . . social"" which have been permitted to appropriate the life of the imagination. Throughout Wain sees art as an equivalent of life ranging far beyond its sociopolitical demands and pressures and he defends the novel or the poem as an ""individual form [which] the film is not."" In between this broader architectural statement there are several long essays of considerable substance -- those on the despairing ""Orwell in the Thirties""; on Flann O'Brien's impossibly elusive ""masterpiece"" which escapes description and definition, At Swim--Two Birds; on Dr. Johnson's poetry, obscured for a century, but here as elsewhere Johnson was ""palpably"" and magisterially present; and an eloquent reading of ""The Meaning of Dr. Zhivago"" which celebrates the wholeness of life. One respects Wain's criticism because one respects his values; he is also pertinent, precise and instructive in the largest sense, reinvesting literature with both an urgency and a magnitude often overlooked in the '70's when the book is no longer ""the centre of our culture.