It was W. Somerset Maugham who once said, "I do not know how critics write novels; I know how novelists write them." His irritation was perhaps justified. Or perhaps not. He may have had in mind someone like Mark Falcoff, whose uninhibited critical judgement has over the ears surveyed writers as diverse as Andre Malraux, Henry James, Randall Jarrell, Evelyn Waugh, Federico Garcia Lorca, Conor Cruise O'Brien, Gerald Brenan, and others. For Mr. Falcoff, literature is too important to be left to writers alone. Readers have the right to see their works placed in a larger historical and cultural context. This is what literary criticism used to be before post-modernism destroyed he the field. Over the tears Mr. Falcoff has pursued this altogether outdated approach in various magazines of relatively small circulation. Now readers who combine a love of literature with history, politics and sociology can enjoy his trenchant and witty observations. They may even be encouraged o discover new books they had overlooked. Literature and Society is a kind of postgraduate course with a professor-without-portfolio.