Books: The Thirty-Year War

COLLECTED ESSAYS (578 pp.)—Allen Tate—Swallow ($6).

In presenting his credentials as an essayist, Poet-Critic Allen Tate, 60, makes a mock show of inadequacy. He laments his failure to do research, bewails his faulty memory, confesses that, although he has been writing it for 30 years, he can neither define literary criticism nor guess its aims. Yet Tate confidently jabs his critical stiletto into a wide range of men and institutions, from Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson ("the light-bearer who could see nothing but light, and was fearfully blind") to criticism itself (it "is in at least one respect like a mule: it cannot...

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