William H. Gass is a glutton of language. Like a chef who can't cook without nibbling, he lards his own writing with similes and metaphors in the spirit of the books he loves, savoring them through imitation. In his essays on literature, this gusto is contagious. You want to taste his taste, to read what he has read. Gass' exuberant, bursting sentences convey the pleasure of reading and thinking better than just about any written since the New Critics took over criticism in the 1950s.