Books: Reflections Occasional Prose

by Mary McCarthy Harcourt Brace Jovanovich 341 pages; $17.95

"I'm not sure she isn't the woman Stendhal," wrote Edmund Wilson back in 1941, when his young wife began her first book. Some 40 years, 20 volumes and two husbands later, the evidence is in. Mary McCarthy, 72, has her own wise and distinctive voice, but the cool, analytical approach to art, sex and politics inescapably suggests the 19th century Frenchman.

In Occasional Prose, fugitive pieces range from reportage to literary criticism to the comparative values of wood ash, manure and seaweed in the garden. All of the works are reminiscent of, in Stendhal's memorable phrase, "a mirror walking along a...

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