FICTION

I Visit the Soviets: The Provincial Lady in Russia, by E.M. Delafield (Academy Chicago/Cassandra, $8.95). Taking Mrs. Trollope as her model, the Provincial Lady embarks on a trip, not to America, as Mrs. Trollope did, but to the Soviet Union, during the '30s. What she finds makes for some often amusing narrative, as she struggles to be a good sport and eat her cabbage. Her observations on Russians of 50 years ago are relentlessly Tory, but her tone is always one of wry wit and humor.

The Sheltered Life, by Ellen Glasgow (Harvest, $8.95). Although Barren Ground and Vein of Iron each has its partisans, no less a critic than Alfred Kazin rates this as Ellen Glasgow's "most moving and penetrating novel." Now available from Harvest Books, all three are the work of a Southern aristocrat who possessed a pure and exact prose style and keen insight into human motivation, not to mention a lifelong conviction that she was born to write artful novels. She turned down an offer of $30,000 to serialize The Sheltered Life in Good Housekeeping because she considered it infra dig. One of her last, the novel chronicles the decline of two privileged families in a Virginia city. In one memorable scene a man is so smitten by a woman's beauty that he thinks, "Even when she is dead, her skeleton will have beauty."

A Glance Away, by John Edgar Wideman (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, $6.95). This novel, written in 1967, shows the promise which has been fulfilled by John Edgar Wideman's subsequent work -- Sent for You Yesterday for which he won the Pen/Faulkner Award, and the highly acclaimed piece of nonfiction Brothers and Keepers. Here Wideman tells the story of Eddie Lawson, a young black man who's returned to his hometown, and his connection to a middle-aged college professor, who in his own way is as troubled as Eddie is.

NONFICTION

Integration of the Armed Forces, 1940-1946, by Morris J. MacGregor Jr. (Government Printing Office, $19). This history is the definitive account of the postwar collapse of the barriers to black Americans' full participation in the nation's armed forces. It traces in considerable and fascinating detail the changing status of black servicemen from the eve of World War II, when they were excluded from many military activities and segregated in the rest, to the 1960s, when the services became a powerful engine for social change.

Frost: A Literary Life Reconsidered, by William H. Pritchard (Oxford, $7.95). Robert Frost lived almost 90 years; in his later years he was revered as a national treasure, but after his death in 1963 there was a severe reaction to both man and poetry. This short (286 pp.) biography by the author of Lives of the Modern Poets was written as a reappraisal. Shrewdly viewing Frost as artist and imperfect mortal, it treats his poetry as the product of a powerful imagination and offers a sensitive portrait of the wayward celebrator of the freedom of the poetic imagination, a man who could write "Never tell me that not one star of all/ That slip from heaven at night and softly fall/ Has been picked up with stones to build a wall."

Letters from Africa, by Isak Dinesen, translated from the Danish by Anne Born (University of Chicago Press, $9.95). Called "the raw material" from which Isak Dinesen fashioned her masterpiece, Out of Africa, this collection of letters is sprinkled with expressions in English (they are underlined in the text), the language in which she earned her fame. Along with Silence Will Speak, by Errol Trzebinski (University of Chicago Press, $8.95), a study of Denys Finch- Hatton, Dinesen's lover, the letters form a tie-in with the forthcoming film, Out of Africa, with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. Tie-ins will be tie-ins. But Dinesen was a marvelous writer -- the equal of Joseph Conrad in learning English as a second language and then making it her brilliant own -- and well-deserving of all the fresh attention this Hollywood event will give her writings.

Teens Speak Out: A Report from Today's Teens on Their Most Intimate Thoughts, Feelings and Hopes for the Future, by Jane Rinzler (Donald Fine, $7.95). What do teenagers really want? According to the material 16-year-old Jane Rinzler gathered in surveys of about 200 teenagers in schools around the country, teenagers want very much what the rest of us do. They want peace in the world, success in their careers, happiness. They also desperately want things many adults already have: independence, the trust of their family and peers, car keys. Rinzler does a masterful job of communicating the needs and desires of teenagers. She is understated, matter-of-fact. Delivered in such measured tones, the wants of most teenagers sound positively sensible.

The Family Handbook of Medical Tests, by Carol Eron with Carole Horn (Perigee, $9.95). Going in for a serum electrolytes test or digital subtraction angiography? Sometimes the names of medical tests don't tell much about them. This book outlines major tests used to determine the causes of any number of symptoms, tells what they are, estimates their expense, and mentions their risks.

Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady, by Florence King (Bantam, $3.95). The sensitive and racy autobiography of a Southerner who couldn't reconcile the demands of conventional womanhood with her own personality. Florence King tells of her search for sexual and psychological identity with wit and poignance. Her accounts of life with her genteel but tough Granny, of the vicissitudes of the sorority world, an ill-fated affair with another woman -- all are told in a marvelously self-deprecating and wry tone.

The Notebooks of Samuel Butler, edited by enry Festing Jones (Hogarth, $8.95). Samuel Butler (1835-1902) is best-known as the novelist who wrote the utopian Erewhon and the anti-Victorian The Way of All Flesh. He also wrote -- or, rather, kept -- a third great book, his Notebooks, in which he collected his random and often quite funny musings on the world around him. Taken from the five bound volumes he left behind at his death, the entries in this omnibus are arranged by subject matter -- Cash and Credit, Handel (whom Butler greatly admired) and Music, Pictures and Books, and several others. In one called Higgledy Piggledy, Butler offered this analysis of God and the Devil: "God and the Devil are an effort after specialization and division of labor."