In a unified series of essays, Malcolm Cowley roams around the subject of writing today,- who writes, how they write and why, and what books are published and sold. At their best, these chapters are witty and informative; some of them, such as the first which decries tortuous, overabundant critical writing today, move slowly. There is a good chapter on the lengthy war novels which picture our soldiers as corrupt, lacking in faith and love. Mr. Cowley believes that this large and prolific group, like much of the critical writing, is not particularly creative. He writes a delightful chapter on the ""new fiction"" those skinny little introspective books which picture suffering, passive individuals adrift in no particular time or place. Nearly half of the book describes writers today, how they live and how they earn- published writers average less income than southern mill hands. Mr. Cowley thinks writers healthier mentally and morally than is often believed, in fact he likes them and deplores the fears of our time that inhibit them, as well as the listless audiences that dry up their enthusiasms. He details the story of paper books and how they are sold, amid bananas and brillo, on the principle of reaching every conceivably possible purchaser. The book is filled with delightful facts and opinions; many readers will disagree with many of the conclusions, of course, and everybody will have his favorite chapters. Possibly because he is still so close to his subject, Mr. Cowley's small points are more interesting and impressive than his larger opinions; the book does not sustain the high level of originality and shrewdness of its better sections which are very good indeed.