From poet/essayist Anania: well-honed essays, many reprinted from Chicago Magazine or The Chicago Tribune, that touch upon a variety of topics--including the American automobile, the best way to choose a tie, and the literary output of Spiro Agnew. Anania's novel The Red Menace (1984) demonstrated an intensely evocative sense of place. Here, he is at his best when writing about his hometown of Chicago, which he sees as a quintessential American city of mythic proportions. Thus, in ``Mike Royko's Rules for Living,'' his critique of a collection of articles by the Chicago newsman, Anania takes us to a bar where the regulars, while staring down outsiders, disagree with everything Royko writes but can't stop talking about him. In ``Excesses and Boondoggles'' and ``Breweries and Bad Guys,'' he gives us an explication of Chicago's reputation for corruption. Even in an extended discussion of modern American poetry (``Poetry, the Remarkable Thing Is That There's So Much of It''), the grittiness of Chicago plays a role when a pre- glasnost Soviet writer visits the dusty office of a small literary press and is puzzled by the enormous piles of poetry magazines with minimal circulations. Among the other literary essays--some published as long as 15 years ago, but still fresh for their lively style--tributes to Cyril Connolly and A.J. Liebling stand out. Different readers will have different favorites, but the description of an encounter group for men who are obsessed with their ties (``The Ties That Bind'') deserves a prize of some sort.