Books: Through the Unknown

THE MODERN MOVEMENT by Cyril Connolly. 148 pages. Atheneum. $4.50.

What is modern? There are people now living who can remember when it was a dirty word-something to do with illicit sex, postimpressionist painting and obscure and alarming techniques of writing. For others, perhaps less aged, the word once evoked a passionately held conviction that "modernity" in the arts announced a revolution in the mind and sensibility-offering insights into the nature of life once claimed by religious illumination.

The lively and influential British critic Cyril Connolly was recently commissioned by the London Sunday Times to compile and comment on a list of the...