For those of you who're new to the Lou and need to catch up on the Arch City vibe right quick, the most effective place for the bookworm to turn is this 1,200-page collection of essays and previously published works from a megawatt roster of authors and artists. It reads like the Delmar Loop's Walk of Fame: Miles Davis, Dick Gregory, Maya Angelou, William S. Burroughs, Tennessee Williams, T.S. Eliot -- they're all here, delivering prose that reveals the cultural idiosyncrasies and sociological chasms of our town better than any snoozy history book could. Although there is considerable dissension in the pages of Voices
-- much of it fomented by (surprise!) Williams -- Angelou's scribblings give the reader a lucid sense of place and coolness sufficient to overcome St. Louisans' much-ballyhooed inferiority complex. We're doin' all right, folks. Don't take it from us, though. Take it from this big fat book.