Much here is a reiteration of ideas and points Paz has made before more freshly--about the disastrous modernist penchant for utopian revolution, about the term ``post-modern'' (``merely a naive way of saying that we are extremely modern'') and about the fraternal, ahistorical force of poetry. The summarizing tone may stem from a few of these essays having been given as speeches and lectures. Paz is shrewd but Olympian in these pieces, proved correct by the collapse of Eastern European Marxism yet not quite happy with it--or sure about what literary culture will find itself grappling with, once these false gods all are totally cleared away. Thus, interestingly, a large part of the focus here is not on poetry itself but on its epiphenomena: the academy (``Literary criticism becomes an exercise in investigating secrets, in the vein not so much of Sherlock Holmes as of Torquemada and State Prosecutor Vishinsky''), the publishing industry, the audience. About all these he is intelligent but also occasionally vague and generalizing, professing a willed optimism of art while everywhere referring to the seemingly inexorable decay of literature. Not as strong or thought-provoking as other Paz collections- -and more provisional.