Huh, I was fooled. I pretty much only ever read novels, unless there is a specific subject I need to pursue. But, according to Wikipedia, or something, this book is classified as being essays. I suppose it is that. But much of it appears to be personal memoirs of Cather's interaction with various members of the arts and literary community, set back in the early part of the twentieth century. The memoirs are mostly written as stories, in which Cather meets various people in various locations. They engage in discussions of literature: what is art and what is manufactured entertainment for the masses. Something like that. Anyway, it was short and somewhat interesting.
There are six "essays" in this volume. The first tells of a chance meeting with Flaubert's niece at a European watering hole. They spend quite a bit of time discussing Flaubert, Balzac, Turgenev and various other literati of the times. The second one is more of an essay proper regarding what it true literature and not. What is the appropriate way to write a novel and not. Then we have a memoir of a widow of a publishing tycoon who is generally "at home" to various literati. They have lots of literary discussions. Through this woman, Cather meets Sarah Orne Jewett. The next piece is a discussion of "Miss Jewett" herself. Then we have a discussion of Thomas Mann's retelling of the Biblical story of Jacob and his son, Joseph. Finally, we end up with a narrative on Katherine Mansfield, at one time a noted short-story writer.
I'm probably too stupid to have read this, not having ever been competent in English class. As a result, this book is likely more suited to a literature major who actually knows something about Flaubert, Balzac, Tolstoi, Sarah Orne Jewett and Katherine Mansfield. I have read them all, except Flaubert and Mansfield, but I can't say I understand them much. But none-the-less, I was interested in Cather's ideas as to what makes for literature and what makes for pot boilers. I followed this book up with a pot boiler by John Grisham. "To every thing there is a season"...or something.