A prolific novelist and essayist, Auchincloss here offers his insights mostly on the literary scene, from Shakespeare, who "gave his audience pretty much what they wanted," to Gore Vidal. Auchincloss's own writing is a pleasure to read-straightforward, elegant, honest. After rereading all 20 of Ivy Compton-Burnett's novels, he confesses that he appreciates them, counter to current critical trends. Other reflections treat Gaddis, Yourcenar, Proust, Pater, Wharton, Congreve, Richardson-and FDR. Auchincloss even names what he considers the three most perfect novels: The Scarlet Letter, Wuthering Heights, and The Great Gatsby. This anthology of 18 short, recent essays will be of interest to the literate reader, but because they have been collected from publications such as the New York Times Book Review, libraries with access to the originals may decide against purchasing.-Nancy P. Shires, East Carolina Univ., Greenville, N.C.
Novelist Auchincloss steps aside, allowing his alter ego to take center stage in a collection of short, agreeably erudite essays dealing with distinctive stylistic elements in the works of eminent writers such as Marcel Proust, Henry James, and Edith Wharton. Auchincloss apparently takes great pleasure in discussing writers who at one time may have been overlooked (as in the case of William Gaddis), or, like Ivy Compton-Burnett, have been out of favor with other critics. But whether he is designating Tennessee Williams as the "Last Puritan" or discussing patterns held in common in three "perfect novels," Auchincloss offers his own incisive and stimulating perspective on topics of literary interest.