This is an important book as a milestone in critical history, a field of literature in America which needs nust the hypodermic such a book as this could provide. Whether or not it will be read thoughtfully by those to whom its tenets will prove a challenge remains to be seen. Controversial -- yes -- Mr. Brooks has no ""sacred cows"". His is a plea for a fundamental American literature, not simply nationalistic or regional, but rooted in American backgrounds, set forth against American life and traditions. The form in which he presents his theme is not easy reading, quick consumption. He has written the autobiography of his own critical philosophyas though he, Van Wyck Brooks, were curator of the papers of one Oliver Allston. Consequently, the material taps the rich vein of his journals, earlier writings, with expansion, elucidation, further commentary. The result is a complete reappraisal of his thoughts, emotions and conclusions. Not only on literature and the function of the critic, but on social, economic and political thought, on writers, on human nature, on American traits. A book to be owned and read with care.