Terry Teachout, . . Yale Univ., $35 (438pp) ISBN 978-0-300-09894-5

Woe to be an artist, writer, musician or fellow critic who incurs Teachout's wrath. In this hefty, erudite collection of essays and reviews from the last 15 years, Teachout (The Skeptic ) turns his scathing wit on some of high culture's most sacred cows. Postmodernism is a theory "so patently absurd as to need no refuting"; black studies is a "pitiful and preposterous burlesque of scholarship"; and Norman Mailer is a "nostalgia act" whose work of the last three decades is "noteworthy only for its flaccid awfulness." Hardly pausing for breath, Teachout goes on to blast jazz critic Stanley Crouch for "musical ignorance" and accuse Wynton Marsalis of fostering "reverse racism." Whew! Of course, if all Teachout did was attack, he'd be a pit bull, not a critic. Fortunately, he also takes pride in resurrecting the forgotten and underappreciated artists of eras past and present. He applauds the talents of cartoon magnate Chuck Jones (creator of Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner), praises the moral center of Randolph Scott's Western B-movies and explores the surprising spiritual underpinnings of Tom Wolfe's A Man in Full . Teachout speaks fearlessly on just about every genre under the sun (though he claims to be just a "well-informed amateur" on all subjects other than music), employing a voice that is unapologetically contrarian and morally focused. Many of these essays first appeared in neoconservative magazines like Commentary , National Review and the Weekly Standard ; some readers may find the political edge to Teachout's criticism irritating, though always ruthlessly consistent. This book is an impressive testament to Teachout's talents, eloquence and integrity. (May)