I willingly admit to seeing 'characters' almost as functions of a landscape,"" wrote Durrell for a New York Times article in 1960. This tastefully selective collection of essays, excerpts from published works and letters over three decades, although handily dubbed ""travel writings,"" provide some bright clues to the modus operandi of a vigorous and flamboyant personality. Lawrence Durrell glides into new landscapes like a homing cockatoo--either happily blending in a whirr of poetic empathy or knocked off his rhetorical perch by drear and chill. Greece is ""blue-bell heaven and water and time."" Argentina has weather like ""wet meat laid across the nervous system."" Alan G. Thomas, old friend and bibliographer, introduces the letters and other pieces with discretion (Durrell's three marriages and appertaining difficulties are merely murmured about). There are residences in Corfu, Rhodes, South America, Egypt, Yugoslavia--in peace and war; letters concerning friends; early ecstatic tremors on first reading Henry Miller; political asides (he hated the grey scenery of Communism); the state of English letters; and a work in progress (a ""corker"" of an Alexandria novel is ""such a strange mixture of sex and the secret service""). The letters and excerpts from essays and fiction serve as a witty, expansive, wildly self-indulgent exploration of place and events.