To Heal a Nation: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Jan C. Scruggs and Joel L. Swerdlow (Harper & Row: $9.95). Two polished granite walls bearing the names of America's 58,000 casualties, the memorial rests unobtrusively against a small hill on the Capitol Mall. In stark contrast to the towering Washington Monument and the imposing Lincoln Memorial, the design neatly solves the dilemma of constructing a monument to something most of us would rather not remember. There are none of the usual plaques suggesting moral or political justifications for the deaths, but the carving of names in stone at least links soldiers to some larger meaning. "To Heal a Nation" follows the story of Jan Scruggs, a former U.S. Army rifleman in Vietnam and the memorial's founder. After seeing "The Deer Hunter" in 1979, Scruggs sat alone in his kitchen with a bottle of whiskey, hearing mortar rounds hit soldiers who were unloading ammunition trucks. "No one remembers their names," he thought. Scruggs' campaign began by appealing to veterans, most of whom thought funds should be used only for veterans' food and housing. Political hurdles were less formidable, for Scruggs presented the monument as a nonpartisan honor to "service and sacrifice." Lack of political conviction makes this book slow going at times, but it offers a sense of post-Vietnam hope that is both valuable and rare. Also recently reissued is "Vietnam Veterans: The Road to Recovery" (New American Library: $3.95), a resource guide by Joel Osler Brende and Erwin Randolph Parson.
On the Good Ship Enterprise, Bjo Trimble (The Donning Co., 5659 Virginia Beach Blvd., Norfolk, Va. 23502: $7.95). "Star Trek" redefined the TV space opera when it was first beamed down to viewers in 1966. Where other shows spotlighted technology, featuring plots with vacuum cleaners thinly disguised as robots, "Star Trek" respected and solicited viewers' intelligence, using space travel as a way of exploring humanistic themes. Mutual respect also extended between cast and crew, writes Bjo Trimble, in this whimsical book from 1983. Gush and naivete are exceptions rather than the rule in Trimble's book, however, for her style is self-effacing and reflective. As such, it should be of interest even to those wary of TV tributes. Trimble does recount the show's history, but she also writes about the nature of fandom: why people think fans are "crazy," why "Star Trek" fans were more eager than others to extend a helping hand to her disabled daughter, and how the line between reality and TV can become blurred.
Socialism and America, Irving Howe (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: $5.95). Aware of the dangers in viewing socialism as an end in itself rather than a means toward an end (better quality of life), the author has created an ideal introduction to socialism for skeptics. Throughout this 1977 work, Howe's Devil's Advocate asks pointed questions: "Isn't Socialism dead in America?" (shaken by failures, yes, but socialists are struggling for modest and major reforms, even though their new, relatively docile approach is unlikely to spark a revolution); "Can Socialist economies provide incentives for individuals?" (Yes; we've only come to think otherwise because Socialism's "language and symbols have been appropriated by parodic totalitarianism"); and the most pressing question, "Why has Socialism failed in America?" (The "open frontier" has served as a safety valve for discontent, class distinctions at the nation's founding were less marked than in Europe, and our political heritage has not always seen moral protest and government reform as the same cause).