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A critical consensus has emerged that Mary McCarthy will be remembered primarily as an essayist rather than as a novelist. But despite her formidable gifts as a polemical and discursive writer, and for all her reputation as an intellectual who sacrificed feeling to intelligence, what powers McCarthy`s best essays are her fictional rather than strictly intellectual gifts. She makes her points by telling stories or by way of vivid description, arresting images and subtle characterization. And for all her exacting sense of fact, McCarthy`s greatest contribution was to blur the distinctions between different kinds of prose writing: to show how fiction could be opened up to the thinking mind and how essays could profit from the techniques of fiction.