Here, the author of Old Glory, Foreign Land, etc., has put together a revealing miscellany of early fiction, autobiography, and book reviews, summing up 20 years as a freelance writer. All things considered, it's been a qualified success story, with the advantages of maintaining an independent spirit and choice of work-assignments balancing off problems of insolvency and self-worth. In a moment of black-humored candor, Raban confesses to feeling moments of nonexistence, when he has to make a trip to the local library and rediscover his identity in the card catalog. The mixed blessings of an ""unmoored"" solitary life also lead to a compulsive love of travel, where Arabia or a leisurely trip down the Mississippi river becomes a means of escape from the blank page and from deadlocked emotions. Raban also vividely recounts the nuts. and-bolts consequences of free-lancing: the different sensibilities and styles needed, for example, in order to become a good book-reviewer, or a writer for little magazines, or a TV writer. Each form demands a slightly different logic in order to become convincing. It's clear that Raban loves his work, and enjoys remembering the often hilarious events that accompany an eccentric life. His account of Robert Lowell attempting the fine art of trout fishing is wonderfully engaging, as is his recollection of the poet's acidic tongue musing on his rivals. Who else but another major poet would dare refer to Emily Dickinson's verse as ""frayed and mussed and wilful""? Less amusing but as sharply focused are Raban's descriptions of foreign lands. His account of Florida, once ""a picture of Eden"" but now mostly ""condominium country,"" is a sadly convincing portrait of a once-virgin land"" spoiled and besmirched by human vanity and greed."" An engrossing and candid exploration of the writer's life.