Books: Ad Lib the Cycles of American History

by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. Houghton Mifflin; 498 pages; $22.95

Despite long, thorough works like The Age of Jackson and The Age of Roosevelt, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., 69, appears particularly at ease in the short, stylish form of the essay, as exemplified by the 14 elegant pieces that make up The Cycles of American History.

There is perhaps a touch of the dilettante in a man who -- with his eager, miss nothing eyes framed by horn-rims and a shy smile centered above his bow tie -- still looks like a cartoonist's vision of the brightest boy in class. But the intellectual restlessness that has kept Schlesinger circling from academic pillars...

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