At a time when criticism seems to fluctuate between footnote fever and razzle-dazzle impressionism, between, that is, the Academy and the mass-media, Philip Rahv's distinctive brand of moral earnestness, plain speech and his insistence on definite political, intellectual and literary values without decorative obfuscations comes as something more than Just a refreshing change. It represents, more importantly, a coherent position, through which the reader can measure both the critic himself and the work under discussion. Usually the measurement is all in Rahv's favor. His analysis, for instance, of Crime and Punishment is one of the most penetrating studies of Dostoevsky this reviewer has ever read, and the title essay brilliantly demolishes the once fashionable mythomania of nco-orthodoxy: ""Myth is reassuring in its stability, whereas history is that powerhouse of change which destroys custom and tradition in producing the future."" Similarly, Rahv sees ivory tower cultism in the confusion of symbolic form with myth and a mixture of nostalgia and anxiety lurking behind the religious revival of the '50's. Characterizations of Gogol and Chekhov are splendidly drawn; the most recent efforts of Bellow, Mailer and Miller are intelligently examined. The remarks on Eliot and Hemingway, however, are essentially trite and flaw the collection.