November 04, 1985 12:00 PM

by Ellen Goodman

Americans in the ’80s are “people who worry about our weight on Monday and nuclear winter on Tuesday,” writes Goodman in the introduction to her latest collection of essays. Goodman’s Pulitzer prizewinning social commentary, currently syndicated in nearly 400 newspapers, reflects her readership’s peculiarly modern range of concerns. She writes with wit and insight on everything from Star Wars weapons and cutbacks in student aid to love at the office and her own preference for vegetable gardens over lawns. While she can argue persuasively on just about any topic, Goodman’s freshest observations tend to be in more personal realms. (On the difficulty of labeling one’s relatives in a society where divorce and remarriage is the norm: “Does your first husband’s mother become a mother-out-law? Is the woman no longer married to your uncle an ex-aunt? We have nieces and nephews left dangling like participles from other lives and stepfamilies entirely off the family tree.”) These essays make fine newspaper reading. They are perfect for quick consumption with your morning’s coffee. But 138 of them in one place do not go down as easily. The very brief (750-word) treatment of complex subjects, appropriate for a daily column, eventually becomes tiresome. So it’s best to take this book in little sips rather than big gulps. (Summit, $16.95)

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