From beyond the Generation Gap come these notes (some published before in the New York Review of Books) by the English poet who, after touring 1968's university battle zones-- Columbia, the Sorbonne, Prague, Berlin--appraises the problems of youth. Given his age (60) and his political standpoint (sadder but wiser ex-leftist) Spender is torn. He feels uncomfortable with the ""driven,"" romantic, self-destructive manifestations of some of the rebels, and his deepest sympathies go to the Czech students, whose struggle for basic freedoms he finds modest, unrhetorical and humane. Yet he understands the dilemma of Western youth in a society which renders their formal freedoms curiously ineffective; and he chastises their elders for cynicism and moral evasion. Spender offers no solutions, except to urge young people to keep protesting, while preserving the university as a base of action and a sanctuary for thought. Possibly because his campus visits were brief, he tends to ignore the non-political antecedents of the revolts, dismissing the insurgents' educational grievances and sociocultural aims as irrelevant. In this sense, the book is not entirely successful as a guide to the student world. But it is immensely thoughtful and often brilliantly written. What stands out is an honest self-portrait of an old rebel, painfully confronted with a scene he'll never make. An unbiased reading may help bring crabbed age and youth together.