Modern French literature is fertile ground for everyone, including the critic. ""French genius,"" said Gide, ""is constantly being newly vitalized, and the sap naturally rises to the tip of the twig."" So Professor O'Brien's collection of his reviews and introductions to various French translations makes interesting reading, even on O'Brien's largely impressionistic terms. These long and short essays, the earliest of which stem from the thirties, are not always perceptive in judgment, as witness the foolish remarks on Celine, and some seem dated from the first sentence: ""At the moment Julien Gracq is the most talked of writer in Paris."" The six pieces on Proust and the thirteen on Gide, all found at the beginning of the book, are the most solid achievements here, dealing with different aspects of their creative worlds, and constituting an evocative summary bound to be appealing to students looking for concise and intelligent evaluations. The seven pieces on Camus perhaps best point up O'Brien's uneven critical approach, mixing simplistic, often journalistic appraisals of themes and literary movements with erudite and sensitive analyses. The latter qualities may be found in their pure form in his splendid full-length study, A Portrait of Andre Gide.