Having read this often dazzling collection of essays on literature and politics, I still do not know what its learned author means by "stolentelling." He is fascinated by the many uses of language for "committed" writing about politics and for escape from politics, for buttressing power and for protest, for describing the working class and for celebrating imperialism. Many important writers, from James Joyce to V. S. Naipaul, from George Orwell to Seamus Heaney, are discussed here, as well as several movie directors, sociologists, and statesmen. McCarthy offers perceptive commentary on all of them, thanks to his inexhaustible curiosity and attention to the many functions and types of language. The other side of this talent is that he leaves the reader somewhat exhausted -- fixing one's eye to a kaleidoscope for hours is both exhilarating and bewildering. Each of these essays should be savored separately. Their collection may be a case of too many admirable things.