Eclectic, erudite essays on the pleasures of all things textual from a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. Horgan (Great River: The Rio Grande in American History, 1955; Mexican Bay, 1982), Professor Emeritus at Wesleyan, crystallizes 50 years of distinguished personal scholarship in this tripartite collection. Part One, ""Toward History,"" is a fair but prescriptive rumination on imagination and history; the fiction-writer in Horgan (he's written 17 novels) finds creative narrative, not ""fact collecting,"" the pleasure of reconstructing the past. Part two, ""After Images,"" contains biographical essays on, among others, Willa Cather (a kindred spirit to Horgan in her interest in the American Southwest), the author's former theater colleague. Rouben Mamoulian, and the obscure 19th-century critic and scholar Maurice Baring. Part three, ""A Certain Climate,"" culminates the collection and, in a sense, Horgan's career; it is a loving meditation--on books, libraries, and the art of reading--in which Horgan defends his own humanism against the encroaching ""technocrats"" of a world increasingly hostile to the contemplative life. There is a hint of Allan Bloomian pedantry behind these last essays, but Horgan's temperament and tone are restrained; his critique of the closing American mind is more generous than self-serving, hence easy to swallow. Despite his ecumenical range, Horgan can be exasperatingly precious. His thoughtful prose sometimes seems sculpted, and his deliberate mood can bore. Still, this call to civility has a certain charm, and the book a quiet, dignified appeal.