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MEMORY AND ENTHUSIASM: Essays, 1975-1985, by W. S. Di Piero. Princeton, $10.95; cloth $29.95. Unless you are among the few thousand good souls who shop at such wholesome literary stands as Canto and The Sewanee Review, the name of W. S. Di Piero is certain to be unfamiliar to you. Too bad, because the poet and essayist surely had in mind a reader interested enough in literature to pick up a Sunday book section when he set down self-consciously American reactions to literary artists as diverse as Dante, Keats, Byron, Coleridge, Whitman, William and Henry James, Leopardi, Pound, William Carlos Williams, Pavese, Sartre, Seamus Heany, William Bronk, J. V. Cunningham, James Wright and Thom Gunn, as well as filmmakers Robert Altman and Michelangelo Antonioni. There is plenty of pleasure to be had in these essays, but more importantly they return you with renewed interest and enthusiasm to the primary texts. A WRITER'S NIGHTMARE, by R. K. Narayan. Penguin, $7.95.
Although he is better known as a fiction writer, for nearly two decades R. K. Narayan wrote a weekly column for the Indian newspaper Hindu, where most of the 65 short essays in this volume first appeared (about two thirds are drawn from the volumes "Next Sunday" and "Reluctant Guru"; the rest are previously uncollected). Narayan writes about anything that strikes his fancy on Thursday, deadline day, from monkeys to Nobel prize winners, from love to the caste system. For Americans, "A Writer's Nightmare" is like having an uncommonly genial and informative guide to everyday Indian life.