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Epstein's third book of literary essays strikes a less polemical note than either Partial Payments (1989) or Plausible Prejudices (1985). Here, the American Scholar editor concentrates on writers for whom he feels a certain affinity, and proves an expert literary portraitist. At his best, he offers insights into a writer's career as evidence of ``the literary life,'' in which ``the experience of books has been integral with the experience of life.'' Epstein's notion that endless reading leads to ...more