December 05, 1977 12:00 PM

by James R. Gaines

“They needed the security the group gave them,” explains psychiatrist Alvan Barach, who had several Algonquin Round Table members as patients. “I saw that, and still do, as an index of how insecure they all were. One of the results was a terrible malice. Nearly all of them had a terribly malicious streak.” That quality makes Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Heywood Broun, Alexander Woollcott and friends great fun to read about. The point that Gaines, a PEOPLE associate editor, makes—that the intense competition was destructive to the production of anything more than trivia—is serious, but his book is delightful. After all, these knights and ladies of the Algonquin Round Table are among the most quotable notables in American letters. The book is lavishly illustrated with photographs and decorations. (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, $12.95)

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