Keeping in Touch, Ellen Goodman (Fawcett: $4.95). She takes the complex and makes it concise, she looks at discouraging news and finds in it cause for hope, she's liberal but not hesitant to cross party lines, she's concerned about the direction in which we're heading but she hasn't forgotten the redeeming force of humor. Like the yuppies who form a large part of her readership, Ellen Goodman tries to arrive at a bright, constructive vision of our nation through good-natured inquiry rather than blind patriotism. And so, while her essay topics range far and wide--from Penthouse magazine and the Strategic Defense Initiative to Bernie Goetz and Raisa Gorbachev--they echo the voice of a generation in search of meaning. "Do you think I'm losing my ambition?," asks a lawyer friend of Goodman's who stopped working 12-hour days so she could spend time with family and friends. "Do you think that my get up and go got up and went?"
On the contrary, Goodman sees this as "creative confusion," a new liveliness that has emerged out of "old certainties." It's no surprise, then, that Goodman reserves her greatest scrutiny for dogma (such as President Reagan's "pep rallies for USA High") and pessimism (a Dr. Seuss book that concludes with two children wondering which superpower will drop the Bomb first). Always accentuating the positive can have its drawbacks, however, as is illustrated by Goodman's piece on the time best-selling author Doris Lessing tried to get one of her novels published under a pseudonym and failed decisively. The hoax demonstrated that we all-too-often value celebrity over substance, but Goodman doesn't consider this critical conclusion about society, looking instead at what the hoax meant to Lessing: "Life is too fragile if your identity is solely defined by others; it is hard, a lifelong task, to go on defining and redefining yourself." But, while Goodman may not always take on the Establishment like a muckraking reporter, her pieces suggest how, through a more enlightened attitude, we can change it.