TWO YEARS AGO psychiatrist Ann Dally published an illuminating book on motherhood subtitled "The Consequences of an Ideal." Though less enlightening, these books could well carry the same subtitle, for they explore the ramifications of America's newest fixation, career success. Indeed, Blotnick points out, the whole notion that nearly anyone should or even could have a career is relatively new on the American scene. As recently as 30 years ago, the vast majority of working Americans contented themselves with a lifetime of mere jobs, which paid the bills and permitted some leisure to pursue the important goals of life, such as keeping up with the Joneses and combating yellowy wax buildup.

Around the time of Kennedy, however, Blotnick sees the beginnings of a major change. Young people, even then in unwitting preparation for their future lives as Yuppies, became increasingly dissatisfied with their parents' rather provincial aspirations. For them, only the brass ring would do. States Blotnick, in one of the many italicized pronouncements dotting these pages, "The desire for renown became the single most important goal of young men and women after 1960. Increasingly, fame became the top priority, supplanting money and marriage." And these youngsters determined to seek renown as members of one of the various specialized fields that rotated through the national limelight.

Blotnick draws this and mny other conclusions on the basis of a 25-year longitudinal study of several thousand men and women who passed through their twenties, thirties, or forties between the late 1950s and the early 1980s. Chosen from the students of 16 colleges and universities and the customers of nine brokerage houses, the sample apparently did not include many people who pursued goals other than renown, such as intrinsically satisfying work, social change, an end to the Vietnam War, a slow-paced life in a small town or rural area, or a happy family. Or perhaps they were present but didn't interest Blotnick's research group (whom he constantly refers to as "we" but never identifies further).

The book, of course, focuses on the initially small, but constantly growing, number of young women seeking big-league business success, primarily in male-oriented large organizations. The years preceding and following Women's Liberation have not treated them kindly, Blotnick concludes. Many made a bad bargain with fate, offering their personal lives in exchange for professional success, only to end up the embittered possessors of neither. An apparently smaller number (Blotnick does not clearly tell how many) managed to achieve both, doing it, as states the anthem of the times, "their way." These entered their forties possessing both the new goal of human existence, a $100,000 annual income, and an "enduring intimacy."

BLOTNICK's publicity material calls him a research psychologist, and in analyzing these lives he shows the psychologists' bias of attributing outcomes to personal, rather than social, cultural or political factors. In particular he blames the many failures to achieve career advancement and happy marriage on two personal errors: unrealistically high expectations and the "addiction to outrage" spawned by feminism and fed by certain (nameless) women's magazines. Other possibilities get short shrift, including the baby- boom demographics that stacked the husband hunt against conspicuously successful women; the intense competition among an enormous cohort entering the job market at a time of falling living standards; the possibility of real discrimination against women; and the tremendous difficulties of maintaining relationships in a time of rapidly changing, and often contradictory, sex-role expectations. He does, however, make a number of very intriguing observations on the evolution of women's ideas of a desirable mate and the origin of certain kinds of unsuccessful pairings.

The solution to all this woe? To his own apparent surprise Blotnick prescribes, of all things, love. "Any woman who is looking for the ideal level of expectations and energy to make the time she devotes to her work most productive -- and her relations with her co- workers as free of friction as possible -- should first fall in love . . . Far from being a detour or an interference, a satisfying and enduring intimacy heightens significantly -- in fact maximizes -- the chances that she will ultimately be a success." This conclusion would also surprise Lord Byron; no longer "woman's whole existence," love is now -- along with a typeset r,esum,e and a smart but not overly elegant blue suit -- part of an arsenal of career strategies.

Winfield heartily agrees. Though the path of true career may never run smooth, she believes that properly motivated people can overcome the tremendous obstacles to having it and their marriage too. Her rather unsystematic exploration of the growing phenomenon of two-city marriages argues strongly, and quite convincingly, that this unorthodox arrangement may well suit couples who live for their work and each other (and who preferably don't have dependent children or other consuming outside interests).

She frankly explores issues such as fidelity, lack of time, expense, taxes, household chores, constraints on social life, and the general inconvenience of living in a way that most people consider weird. She can help couples in this capital of workoholism decide whether it's for them.