Although novelist, memoirist, and poet Monette (Becoming a Man, 1992, etc.) is sometimes vituperative, his language is always sharp in these essays. It is only when he falls away from criticism that his prose thickens and slows down. In ``Puck,'' Monette writes in a seemingly benign way about his dog, but it soon becomes apparent that he is communicating something about himself through his unusually unsentimental relationship with the animal. ``Gert'' describes an elderly lesbian whom Monette befriends, and his admiration for and puzzlement over the elegant manner in which she both reveals and conceals her sexuality. Monette scathingly attacks the Pope in several of these essays, but ``My Priests'' describes the few men of the cloth he actually admires. They include a Catholic priest named Gambone, who left the order after his lover died of AIDS, and Brother Toby, who has organized a lay Catholic community for children with AIDS that sells Christmas trees to raise money. Monette describes his impromptu wedding ceremony, which was officiated by a New Age woman called Ma; Monette skeptically calls her ``the Auntie Mame of gurus,'' but he also respects the ``bluesy sort of comfort'' she brings to her many HIV-positive followers. In ``3275,'' Monette manages to avoid emotionalism even while describing different graves he has known (those of lovers and those of the famous). He constantly--and effectively--undercuts the material's saccharine potential with passages like ``Are you reeling from the mawkishness? Because it gets worse.'' Occasionally this incisiveness is lost. ``A One-Way Fare,'' an examination of the importance of different journeys he has made, drifts off into travelogue about halfway through, and the dissection of insomnia in ``Sleeping Under a Tree'' is less than involving. A mix of the personal and the political with the occasional misstep.