FICTION

The Corps: Book II -- Call to Arms , by W.E.B. Griffin (Jove, $4.50). In the dark days after Pearl Harbor, the Allies are on the defensive everywhere. Through the gloom shines one feat of arms: the daring raid of "Carlson's Raiders" on Japanese-held Makin Island. Though senior Marine officers are suspicious of special forces, considering all amphibious troops to be qualified as commandos, the Raiders, under the command of Lt. Col. Evans F. Carlson, have the personal blessing of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Here is their gallant story and that of the hell-for-glory Makin Raid, in fiction, with painstaking attention to historical accuracy and to the minutiae of Marine Corps life by the author of the best-selling Brotherhood of War series.

I See A Long Journey , by Rachel Ingalls (Touchstone/Simon and Schuster, $6.95). Rachel Ingalls, author of Mrs. Caliban and The Pearlkillers, mistress of the novella, is renowned for her purity of style -- her stories are all cool understatement soon deadstopped by some unexpected blow, or horror, causing an absolute reversal of perception. In the title novella, one of three in this volume, Flora marries a fabulously rich man many years her senior; presently she falls in love with the family chauffeur. On vacation, "far away" in an exotic, unnamed location, Flora's life of dependence and illusion is shattered, all on the same day, by a pink-robed child goddess, a gang of murderous would-be kidnapers, and the treachery of the chauffeur.

The Pushcart Prize, XI: Best of the Small Presses , edited by Bill Henderson (Penguin, $9.95) In what has become an annual literary event, the Pushcart Prize editors once again glean, winnow and reap from the lists of hundreds of small U.S. presses a glittering selection of poetry, short stories and essays, first published in such journals as the Small Pond Magazine of Stratford, Conn., or Menu, put out by the Lunchroom Press of Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich. "This," writes Cynthia Ozick, "is the sound of how we write now, . . . the sound of America writing." Pushcart Prize XI offers a pleasing mixture of work by established writers -- Richard Ford, Andre Dubus, Alice Adams -- and pieces by newly-burgeoned talents such as Mona Simpson, Amy Hempel and Denis Johnson. There is some especially impressive poetry -- read "Mid-Plains Tornado," by Linda Bierds, "Eating Together," by Li-Young Lee and "Turtle, Swan," by Mark Doty -- and several fine, impassioned essays like "At the Death of Kenneth Rexroth," by Eliot Weinberger and Donald Barthelme's "Not-Knowing," a fiction writer on fiction writing. Also included are a list of names of the various presses nominated for this edition and a complete index of the first 11 volumes.

Regrets Only , by Sally Quinn (Ballantine, $4.95). While this is a novel of Washington ways and wiles, it's no cold study of politics and lawmakers. Instead, this best-selling novel is the story of Allison Sterling, White House correspondent for a Washington newspaper and her love affair with Desmond Shaw, bureau chief for a news magazine. The lives of the two are also entertwined with those of another couple -- Vice President William Rosewell Gray and his wife Sara. The scenes Quinn sets -- Washington parties and Georgetown salons; White House bedrooms and the newsroom of a top daily newspaper -- evoke all the glamor and power of the city.

NONFICTION

The Female Malady: Women, Madness and English Culture, 1830-1980 , by Elaine Showalter (Penguin, $8.95). When John Lennon sang of woman as "the nigger of the world," he was not saying anything that women themselves had not long before, in bitterness, frustration and rage, already suspected. Elaine Showalter opens her magisterial study with a despairing quotation from Mary Wollstonecraft's Maria; or, The Wrongs of Woman (1797): "Was not the world a vast prison, and women born slaves?" Showalter goes on to document -- with the help of rare photographs and illustrations -- the often brutal history of the treatment of women diagnosed as insane; the influence of male psychiatrists from John Conolly to R.D. Laing on the very definition of mental disorder, so often seen as a peculiarly female malady; and the way in which "man-made institutions, from marriage to the law," have conspired to confine women and "drive them mad." As a cultural history of madness as well as a feminist history of psychiatry, the book draws not only on legal and medical texts but -- illuminatingly -- on literature, painting, photography and film for its evidence.

Marriage and Morals Among the Victorians and Other Essays , by Gertrude Himmelfarb (Vintage, $9.95). In an age when much formal history has become dull and hermetic, the Distinguished Professor of History at the Graduate School at the City University of New York writes about persons and ideas in past time with a concern for the relevant lesson, the philosophic insight, applicable to present time. Here are sparkling essays on the decline of religion in British society, the enduring pleasures of reading Macaulay, the Tory imagination, and political visionaries, left and right, from Bentham to the Fabians. Her assessment of the past is never equivocal: "The desire to transcend the human condition is, in most religious traditions, an invitation to heresy. In politics it is an invitation to tyranny, as we seek a perfection that inevitably eludes us and as we redouble our efforts to attain the unattainable."

Mary Todd Lincoln: Her Life and Letters , edited by Justin G. Turner and Linda Levitt Turner (Fromm, $12.95). The more than 600 surviving letters of Mary Todd Lincoln, published here in full and sensitively and informatively annotated, provide a new and balanced portrait of Abraham Lincoln's much maligned wife. Mary Lincoln had a very bad press in her day, condemned for her extravagance in dress and shrewish unpredictability of mood. She had a "desolate" childhood, lost two sons to malaria and diptheria, and fought the common female ailments of "neurasthenia" and migraines all her life. After Lincoln's assassination, she lapsed into severe psychosis. But her letters reveal, besides incipient mental disturbance, a woman of evident intelligence, wit and deep feeling, sadly trapped in a world not of her own making.

Cadillac Desert: The American West and its Disappearing Water , by Marc Reisner (Penguin, $8.95). This book contains one of the saddest photographs ever taken. In 1948 the secretary of the interior is ceremoniously signing a document with a dozen minions and other officials at his side. Among them is the chairman of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation business council, head in hand, weeping uncontrollably. What the secretary is signing is a contract by wiich the tribe has sold 153,000 acres of its reservation to the government for a projected diversion of the Missouri River, and the tribal representative is mourning his lost heritage. Marc Reisner's text is perhaps the best one-volume introduction to a problem that divides the U.S. into two regions more sharply than any other geographical feature: water -- scarce and fought over in the arid West, plentiful and taken for granted in the temperate East.

Tales Out of School: A Teacher's Candid Account from the Front Lines of the American High School Today , by Patrick Welsh (Penguin, $6.95). The high school in question is none other than T.C. Williams in Alexandria, where the author has taught English for 15 years. According to Welsh, even a widely respected school like Williams graduates students who cannot read with confidence. He blames the school and its teachers for this deficiency but also criticizes black students for entertaining the self-defeating attitude that scholastic achievement is "acting white." The real villains of this book, however, are neither students nor teachers but the educational bureaucrats whose excessive caution and wooden requirements stifle creativity and innovation among high school teachers. These tales, which began as a series in The Washington Post, are harrowing, funny and, finally, hopeful.

Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme , by Mary Wilson with Patricia Romanowski and Ahrgus Juilliard (St. Martin's, $4.95). With Florence Ballard and Diana Ross, Mary Wilson was a member of one of the most popular singing groups of all time -- The Supremes. This is Mary Wilson's side of the story, as she puts it, a "real-life Cinderella story and a tragedy deeper than anyone ever knew." The Supremes' ascent to the top of the pop music world begins with three friends singing after school, progresses through their signing by Berry Gordy of the Motown record company -- who taught them how to walk, talk and act, and who oversaw their progression to the top of the charts. Ross' departure meant the decline of the group, but it was Ballard's death that showed Wilson the dream was over.

Screen Deco: A Celebration of High Style in Hollywood , by Howard Mandelbaum and Eric Myers (St. Martin's, $15.95). Art Deco, immediately recognizable by its streamlined and angled surfaces, its patterns of parallel lines, its geometric forms and ornate zigzags, set an unmistakable stamp on the architecture and interior decor of the 1920s and '30s. Nowhere was the potential of Art Deco more extravagantly exploited than in the black-and-white movies of the era. Here are over 250 photographs from film archives and personal collections documenting the fruitful relationship between high style and Hollywood which produced some truly memorable screen sets.

CHILDREN'S BOOKS Meet My Folks! , by Ted Hughes (Faber and Faber, $6.95) First published in 1961, Ted Hughes' little book of poems about his eccentric, if not downright alarming, family was an immediate success. Here expanded from the original eight to 13 poems, the book includes word-portraits -- graced with the most ingenious rhymes and rhythmic schemes -- of Hughes' grandpa the Owler, with his cunningly devised owl-net ("The rarest of owls, and the very most suspicious/ Will pounce on the mouse and be tangled in the meshes"), his brother Bert ("the very thought makes me iller and iller:/ Bert's brought home a gigantic Gorilla!") and, a favorite, Uncle Mick, "the portrait artist {who} painted Nature's Creatures./ Began with the Venus fly-trap but he soon got on to Leeches/ Because he found inspiring beauty in their hideous features."

My Little Island , by Frane' Lessac (Harper Trophy, $3.95, ages 4-8) "My best friend, Lucca, and I are going to visit the little Caribbean island where I was born. From the air it looks like a giant green turtle swimming in the sea." So begins this simple but charming account of an island journey which, with its bright, naive, detailed illustrations, conjures up a world of rainbow-colored houses, frangipani and jasmine, goat-water stew, mangoes and fried bananas, iguanas and barking frogs, calypso and reggae, even a volcano: all the color and heat and sound of the Caribbean lovingly evoked.