Phillip Lopate's first essay at a book of essays would fairly have to be qualified a success. At that time poised about equally between poet, novelist, and essayist, Lopate's attractions to the form—certainly within the context of his aesthetics, which he gets into some here—are palpable. This allows him to waver naturally over the commonplace and everyday, which he so clearly prizes. Are there various sins of narcissism here? Yes, one would have to say yes. Too many girlfriends. Too much talk of dating. And self-consciously making "bachelor" a concept within which he invites us to live with him does not necessarily excuse forays into confessionalism. But he knows when to pull back or withdraw silently, and he is always brisk and charming to read. He is clearly still feeling his way into his voice—he includes a handful of poems and a handful and more of very short pieces, which are not hard to think of as "prose poems" (eternally mystifying term). When they work they remind me a little of Harvey Pekar's very short pieces, blunt and elliptical all at once. This makes me wonder how familiar Lopate may have been with Pekar at the time most of these pieces appear to have been written, in the late '70s and early '80s. The longer pieces are entirely different animals, often playing Lopate's cards very close to his chest. There's little here, for example, to suggest the depths of Lopate's cinephilia, though some clues exist. His memoir of Lionel Trilling is an interesting look at the mid-century academic and literary critic (whom I've never read) and his milieu of the '60s and '70s Columbia, and a touching story of a connection between a teacher and his student, which is enriched with the fabric of literary life well loved. If it was not yet apparent how much Lopate would ultimately bring to the project of restoring the personal essay to the more prominent position that it deserves, it's plain enough how much it means to him, as he begins to dive into the topic in another long piece, "Bachelorhood and Its Literature." Names such as Charles Lamb, William Hazlitt, Cesare Pavese, Sei Shonagon, and Walter Benjamin come up for perhaps the first time in print by Lopate here—the first time, but not the last.