In his 90th year, the short-story writer, biographer, and critic produces another collection of elegant essays. Here, Pritchett (Chekhov, 1988, etc.) delivers 27 pieces on 28 writers (Flaubert and Turgenev are paired), presented in alphabetical order (itself a small emblem of the logic and impartiality one expects from Pritchett), from Aleichem to Wollstonecraft. The essays are witty, rich with plot summary and analysis, rigorously free of ideological coloring. As always, Pritchett can brand a writer with a handful of words. Isaac Babel ""was a man who hit one in the belly""; in Walker Percy, ""Sears Roebuck has made its contribution to literature""; and of John Updike: ""in his preoccupation with the stillness of domestic objects Updike is a descendant, in writing, of the Dutch genre painters. . ."" Other subjects in this collection, which originally appeared as separate essays in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, New Statesman, and London Review of Books, include Robert Browning, Bruce Chatwin, Molly Keane, AndrÃ‰ Malraux, George Orwell, Salman Rushdie, Oscar Wilde, and even P.G. Wodehouse. Literary chitchat of the highest order.