Clifton Fadiman is a striking proof that a regular reviewer need not necessarily degenerate into a facile purveyor of snap judgments and hopeful guesses. He was the first--and, I think, the only-- reviewer to offer an annual mea culpa to his readers; and while he explains his introduction of this custom rather cynically in terms of space-filling rather than conscientiousness, his reader may reserve judgment.
Mr. Fadiman's taste is excellent and genuinely diversified. (The adverb must be added hastily when one remembers the apparently wide range of interests of the average New York Times book-reporter.) "Reading I've Liker" is an unpretentious collection which represents various aspects of that taste. The book does include, for example, the whole of James Thurber's "My Life and Hard Times" (which any Thurber-connoisseur will tell you is the master's chef-d'ocuvre), stories by Maugham, Beerbohm, Thomas Mann, Virginia Woolf, excerpts from Eve Curie and Fowler's "Modern English Usage," and Judge Woolsey's decision lifting the ban on "Ulysses."
Mr. Fadiman has a critical note on each item and an admirable prefatory essay, "My Life Is an Open Book." The preface is a candid and well-reconstructed account of the editor's history as a reader; the sections on childhood-reading are particularly good.
The reading which Mr. Fadiman has liked is interesting in itself and as a revelation of his critical intelligence. He has curious likings--all well justifiable--and he is not a Woolcott to pull Hiltons out of a hat. His book is an anthology which lifts the curse from anthologies.