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Now in Paperback

January 05, 1986|ALEX RAKSIN

Wonder's Child: My Life in Science Fiction, Jack Williamson (Bluejay: $8.95). There's something in these pages even for those who aren't interested in reading Jack Williamson's classic stories about adventures in magic castles, battles with giant crabs or basketball-size artificial worlds whose days equal seconds of our own time. True, science-fiction skeptics might at first raise an eyebrow when Williamson calls his genre a successor to Greek tragedy: "Its theme was human nobility. In our bleak-seeming present, those old gods dead and our own new technologies grown more awesome than they ever were, we need the chastening awe the Greeks once knew, and the stout faith in human greatness that was part of it." Yet skeptics of science fiction shouldn't fear, for, instead of supernatural stories, "Wonder's Child" gathers Williamson's thoughts and feelings about his vagabond days as a child in the American Southwest, free-lance writing, the magic of science (as well as its "tragic shadow" after Hiroshima) and authors, especially H. G. Wells. The book, which won a Hugo Award when it first appeared in 1984, is humorous, engaging and expansive (Williamson sold his first story in 1928). Williamson's normally direct prose, however, becomes vague when describing a somber period in his life: He began taking psychotherapy after thinking about leaping into a murky stream "red-stained with the life-blood of the despoiled and dying land." Williamson only tells us that his thoughts of suicide were part of "a final fatal rebellion against the old false tyranny of self-control."

Neptune's Revenge: The Ocean of Tomorrow by Anne W. Simon (Bantam: $3.95) argues that as the only nation failing to sign the Law of the Sea Treaty, the United States is selling out the world's oceans for short-term gain. The oceans' striped bass are becoming extinct, Anne Simon writes, shellfish are too poisonous to eat and the consequences of the destruction are inconceivable because we take a well-functioning ocean for granted. This critically acclaimed book, however, is not a polemic against American policy making. Simon's conclusion is hopeful: A U.S. government Ocean Commission, whose formation is being considered by Congress, could be a major step forward, she writes, run by the many "scientists and scholars of achievement (in the United States), wise men, men of intellect, independent of the industrial and government hierarchy."

Mary Kay on People Management, Mary Kay Ash (Warner: $3.95). A man and three women beam in admiration at Mary Kay in the photo on the jacket cover, but this is one case in which the cover doesn't tell all. While many guides for corporate managers, such as Terrence Deal and Allan Kennedy's "Corporate Cultures," look upon the ideal corporation as a shrine, Mary Kay continually reminds readers that career should rank a distant third, behind God and family. Even readers on the lookout for slick salesmanship (Kay turned her $5,000 savings account into a Fortune 500 company) will be swayed by the book's straightforward words of motherly advice: Men and women dress up more for co-workers than for their loved ones, writes Mary Kay, but "shouldn't it be the other way around?"; "All through school we're taught to read, write and speak--we're never taught to listen"; "Sandwich criticism between two layers of praise"; "Never hide behind policy or pomposity." Though some of her conclusions are questionable (she writes, for instance, that women primarily gain pride in themselves by "looking their best"), this book convincingly argues that one can do well and do good at the same time.

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