These posthumous memoirs of novelist and journalist Herbst (1892-1969) alternate between dreamy recollection and thoughtful questioning of literary and political fashions. Herbst begins with tales of her pre-WW I childhood in Iowa, where she is raised by a mother who wonders hopefully whether young Josephine will grow up to be a lawyer and by a father who says as she leaves home for New York, ``Jo, I don't know what you're after, but I wish you all the luck in the world.'' In New York, Paris, and other centers of the cutting edge she is part of a literary circle that includes Katherine Anne Porter, Ernest Hemingway, Nathanael West, and others, living an enviable life of conversation and reading and stopping occasionally to wonder whether contempt for ``the lovely and the beautiful'' is becoming too popular. Her strongest contempt is for rigid ideologies. At a writers' conference in Moscow, she becomes disaffected from the literary figures whose praise for proletariat literature is a thinly veiled speech of self-promotion, and her refusal to paint the Spanish Civil War in black and white paralyzes her and keeps her silent about her trip for the next 30 years. Her questioning doesn't keep her from sentimentalizing the political debates of the time, but her description of sitting in an Italian-owned diner as Sacco and Vanzetti are executed is one of the work's memorable moments. Herbst convinces us that she was in the eye of the storm of the era that ``opened the world to its literary young on a scale never before ventured and not equaled since.''