There is actually a very direct current running through these essays -- language and culture as themes, and as motive, the critical spirit itself elevated to the level of a principle and a vocation. Unfortunately the articles are not printed chronologically; they are regrouped by weight it would seem as much as subject. Although they were written as magazine pieces between 1959 and 1967, they belong dearly to a serious and, most importantly, an evolving system of thought. Given the twining and parallelism of the arguments, one misses the developmental coherence of their original sequence; and in some cases dates would have been helpful simply for orientation. The book begins with reviews and casual meditations, a deft assorting of things at hand which rather glitteringly points the drift of his speculations -- the ultimate relation of language, time and culture. It ends with criticism and philosophy -- comparative readings of Sartre and Ortega, a social etymology of the word ""revolt"" -- which approach the same questions with keen, implacable logic but in a decidedly more academic vein. This is especially true in the article on McLuhan -- a somewhat querulous refutation which dismisses his essential insight and the threat it implies to orderly, linguistic minds. The most satisfying section is the middle one, devoted to such topics as religion, nihilism, drugs. Here we see Paz's critical powers full length and they are formidable.