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From The Critics"We all love stories," writes Gass in this heady compilation of rants and ruminations. "It seems a harmless pleasure." But even a simple thing like the love of a good tale gets run through the manifold variations of Gass' musings on life and literature. The fourteen essays collected here are gathered into three sections: "Literary Matters," "Social and Political Contretemps" and "The Stuttgart Seminar Lectures." There's not a dull piece to be found in the volume, whether Gass is praising Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities or explaining why he thinks imprisonment has led to so much great writing. The best examples of Gass' work, however, are the pieces with no single obvious point. The obtusely humorous "Quotations from Chairman Flaubert" refuses any easy explanation, yet, like the rest of this enjoyable book, it remains immensely pleasing.