A critical gunslinger takes aim at the highs and lows of American culture at the close of the 20th century, and looks to what lies ahead. "Falling Upwards" brings together the best writing of one of America's pre-eminent cultural critics. An astute observer of the evolving relationship between art and commerce, Lee Seigel here ranges from "Sex and the City" to Saul Bellow, from JK Rowling to Barbara Kingsolver. Displaying the combination of wit and intellectual rigour that have won him accolades and many imitators, Seigel here offers a relentless critique on many different fronts, of the way things are. He does not worry over the state of the novel, the status of the visual arts or the fate of present-day film. Instead, he uses the occasion of a particular book, or film, or painting, or television show to make sense of life in a way that is more corrosively irreverent, more insightful, and more comical than any contemporary novel. If Seigel's essays exemplify one cardinal quality, it is that they use culture always to return to life. The conviction that guides them is that life is less intense without the organized reflections offered by art and ideas, and works of culture are meaningless if they lack a feel for life. In a hypercritical age - a time when the supercritical media have more power and significance than any artistic movement - Seigel's criticism ultimately celebrates feeling and intuition over dry intellect. Yet no critic at work today attains Siegel's insight and depth of feeling with his power of logic, argument and analysis. What Siegel has done is invent a new idiom in which the language of criticism embodies the playful, reflective, creative, synthesizing power that has been mostly abdicated by the arts in our time. Indeed, in writing about the arts, Siegel has created a standard by which to judge them.