A young reporter and photographer traveled across the USA during the summer of 1973, talking with all kinds of people - not sure what they'd find, not sure what they were looking for - poking into the least likely places for interviews and looks around, like at the people involved with a no-win minor league baseball team in a small Southern city, or the old folks stuck in a rundown hotel living out their last years alone. They asked incredibly direct questions - "Are you lone?" - and got answers that reveal perhaps more than the question intended: "No, I got an auto and I can go anywhere I want to go!"

Some of the picutres that accompany the text are gibly contemporary-stark, making everyone look empty or dehumanized. But the talk comes across as completely authentic, and the editing is excellent. We're convinced before we're halfway through that this truly the way it really is out there - out here - in the USA of today, and it's not very much at all like the image we've been given and been getting on the tube or through coffee table books or the "New Hollywood" productions, including "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman." Like a mini-WPA project, Engelhard has captured the texture of American life in the '70s in a way that should engage, and also enlighten, not only a contemporary audience, but the readers of future generations as well. (Riverrun Press, 2636 Regent Street, Berkeley, California 94704. $4.95)