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From The CriticsNovelist West is a passionate and freewheeling wordsmith. His latest book, which takes readers back to the classroom, depicts scenes from West's final term teaching fiction writing to mfa candidates at Penn State University. Reading about West discussing great literature, I found myself eager to reread the works of Samuel Beckett and Julio Cortázar. Though this book is too self-involved to be of much assistance to young writers, West, almost reluctantly, offers good advice: "Study one unusual subject each year: entomology, chocolate making, national flags, hermaphroditism in slugs." The world is not vague. Most things in it are stupendously precise." Be forewarned that West's approach is idiosyncratic; much of the classroom discussion, punctuated by baroque revelations from the teacher, is difficult to follow. Though some readers will find the author's enthusiasm contagious and appreciate his lyrical bursts, more are likely to view the book as confusing or self-indulgent.