Rovere, longtime political analyst, has assembled pieces of his life as writer, traveler, and observer of human follies. The perfectly poised prose style is a New Yorker imprimatur and Rovere's ""taste for the minutiae of syntax and style"" is apparent. In turn, he contributes his bit to the legend of Harold Ross (""Ross would never have put up with Dickens, Tolstoi, and Balzac""). While in the 1950s Rovere was a Young Turk (""I enlisted the magazine on the side of the victims"") who tackled Sen. Joseph McCarthy, this collection, though eminently readable, is distanced and passionless. The tip-off may be Rovere's disagreement with John Donne: ""I think that every man is an island in the only sense that counts""; he is not about to reveal much beyond the externals of his craft. Even the concluding piece on his father--a prosaic electrical engineer who, Rovere discovered after his death, had discarded one identity for another--is curiously unaffecting. For the rest, there's a selection of New Yorker profiles, a short piece on JFK--whom he didn't know well--and another on Walter Lippmann which points up Lippmann's early activism and then fizzles to an homage. Truly funny is an essay about a family holiday, ""See Naples and Drop Dead,"" in which Rovere fares poorly against Neapolitan thievery. Some reflections on his collegiate Communist fellow-traveler days, on the other hand, will elicit an indifferent shrug. The subsequent drift to increasingly conventional liberalism is implicit. Good moments to be sure, but on the whole dispensable.