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February 09, 1986|JONATHAN KIRSCH

When a man wins the Nobel Prize not once but twice, and manages to reach his 80s with both body and mind in sound condition, he deserves to be taken seriously. Of course, that is precisely what Linus Pauling (and his publishers) are counting on. His manifesto of megavitamins, How to Live Longer and Feel Better (Freeman: $7.95), might have been less credible--and certainly less commercial--if composed by some nut-and-berry-muncher. Still, there is a lot of Gypsy Boots in this passionate little volume: "Do not let either the medical authorities or the politicians mislead you," Dr. Pauling exhorts us. "Find out what the facts are, and make your own decisions about how to live a happy life and how to work for a better world."

The point here is Pauling's prescription for good health, and it's an appealingly simple one. "(A)s to eating and drinking there is in this book only one real don't ; that is sugar," Pauling explains. "Like the cigarette, the sugar sucrose is a novelty of industrial civilization. Together, they have brought pandemics of cancer and cardiovascular disease to the otherwise fortunate populations of the developed countries." But Pauling's real secret--which is no secret at all to anyone who is even faintly familiar with the good doctor's public agitation over the last two decades--is the use of massive vitamin and mineral supplements, especially vitamin C in daily doses of 6,000 to 12,000 milligrams. "

The rest of Pauling's regimen is easy enough to take: "Drink alcoholic beverages only in moderation . . . DO NOT SMOKE CIGARETTES . . . Avoid stress. Work at a job that you like. Be happy with your family." And that's the essential message of "How to Live Longer and Feel Better"--the rest is Pauling's meticulously annotated scientific argument and spirited megavitamin boosterism.

Pauling is enough of a scientist to acknowledge the existence of his critics and doubters--"(T)he American Medical Assn., the American Cancer Society, and the editors of the leading medical journals have not yet recognized that vitamin supplements in the optimum amounts have value"--and, although he is decidedly a true believer, he does not ask us to take his pronouncements as a matter of faith. But I suspect that many readers will, since few of us are equipped to analyze the scientific evidence that he adduces in such great detail and with such great enthusiasm.

Aside from the Statue of Liberty, perhaps no work of sculpture is more deeply embedded in our collective imagination than Rodin's "The Thinker," a statue that has transcended fine art and even popular culture to become a kind of universal icon. "Just to sit with head in hand is to invite identification with the statue," observes Albert E. Elsen in Rodin's Thinker and the Dilemmas of Modern Public Sculpture (Yale University: $10.95; also available in hardcover, $30). "So deceptively simple is the image and so pervasive is its exploitation that only rarely has the statue's form been closely and rightly read."

Elsen, a Stanford University professor of art history and something called "art law," gives us precisely such a reading of "The Thinker." He traces Rodin's concept and treatment of "The Thinker," which was originally intended as one of a group of figures in "The Gates of Hell," to a various early statuary based on a seated figure, including a bas relief of Euclid that appears on the facade of the Louvre. He explores the considerable artistic and political furor that attended its installation at the Pantheon in Paris in 1906; one attack was launched not by the critics but by a deranged man who attacked an early plaster version of the statute with a hatchet, crying "I avenge myself!" And Elsen ponders the uses and abuses of "The Thinker" in the popular culture, where the familiar image has been a durable tool of advertising and editorial cartooning.

The centerpiece of Elsen's book is a long essay on fate of public sculpture in our society, with "The Thinker" as a particularly telling case history. "Critics today generally seem more forgiving of architects than sculptors for being less than perfect," he observes. "Fine sculptures that are small relative to large buildings nearby are always gifts to the street, but are too often derided in our addiction to bigness. Such sculptures restore a human scale to our built environment and often supply needed animation and beauty," Elsen writes. And, in his despair over the misuse of public sculpture in general and "The Thinker" in particular, he reserves his harshest criticism for the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco: "Instead of refusing to allow its actual cast of "The Thinker" to be utilized, thereby leaving it to the advertiser to work with a copy or photographs, this museum appears to have set an example that makes it very hard to continue educating the public to respect art out of doors and to consider disrespect for art, if not vandalism, socially unacceptable."

The Graywolf Annual Two: Short Stories by Women (Graywolf, P.O. Box 75006, St. Paul, Minn. 55175: $7.50) showcases the work of 13 contemporary writers who happen to be women, including Alice Adams ("The Oasis"), Jane Bowles ("Senorita Cordoba"), Ann Beattie ("Cards"), Louise Erdich ("The Beat Queen"), Bobbie Ann Mason ("Blue Country") and Alice Munro ("Walker Brothers Cowboy"). Edited by Scott Walker, founder and director of the Graywolf Press, this second edition of "The Graywolf Annual" once again embodies all the qualities that we have come to expect from the work of small presses--a taste for well-crafted but not necessarily pyrotechnic writing, full of quiet revelation and understated drama, and a commitment to the traditions of exquisite typography, fine printing, quality paper and sturdy binding.

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