Books: Miscellany Hodgepodge

by J. Bryan III Atheneum; 327 pages; $19.95

As a young man, J. Bryan III learned a great secret from Sherlock Holmes: the world's first consulting detective kept a "commonplace book," a volume in which he set down observations and literary snippets for future reference. That discovery prompted Bryan, 82, a veteran U.S. magazine editor and author -- his memoir, Merry Gentlemen (and One Lady), was published last year -- to compile a commonplace book of his own. In less skillful hands, the rubber , cement would have shown through. Hodgepodge, happily, is a literate, lifelong miscellany, illuminated with flashes of comedy and rue.

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