In this collection of literary criticism, West undertakes the question of art's value, examining the works of her contemporaries and their places in history. "The Strange Necessity," one of the twelve essays collected here and first published in 1928, anchors West's quest to understand why art matters and how aesthetics of every caliber can not only inspire but reveal the author's inner world. Whether juxtaposing Ulysses's prose with Pavlov's research, or comparing Sinclair Lewis with actress and pianist Yvonne Printemps, West finds that a satisfying emotion overrides an artistic work's form. Her intricately crafted essays reveal her experience in the literary circles of the twenties and thirties and the important role this question played in her own writing. West's keenly observed criticism offers invaluable insight not only into her work but into her impressions of early twentieth century literature.