A remarkable collection of essays from one of our greatest black intellectuals and one of the country's noblest public citizens. Crouch, a New Republic editor and New York Daily News columnist, has made a career out of controversy. At his weakest he can be captious and narrowly reactionary; at his best he can be devastatingly, frighteningly lucid. This book is an example of Crouch at his best. His work is a strong enemy of the lies and illusions our country has, piercing the plump, self-satisfied dogmas of racists and nationalists alike. He is, as ever, about the business of democracy: thinking and writing about our national experiment from its edges and its midst. Here Crouch is the self-conscious inheritor of the legacy of Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray. Theirs is a palpable presence in the book, guiding Crouch's steps as he explores the complex miscegenations of race and class in America. He cherishes film for its broad democratic vistas; meditates on literature for its singular access to the souls of men; approaches jazz for its infinite metaphorical variety. But many of the essays (most previously published in the Daily News, the New Republic, and elsewhere) are only a few pages long, leaving the reader unsatisfied. Crouch's work is grounded just as it begins to take flight. His conscientious improvisational prose style can also be burdensome at times, the substance gobbled up by style, as when he says that Ellison ""saddled up the pony of death."" But one inevitably feels, reading Crouch, the constant, clear voice of a truth-teller and the full and deadly blow of a true intellectual warrior. As innovative as jazz, as complex as a fugue, little that Crouch writes can be ignored.