FICTION

Quartet, by Jean Rhys (Carroll & Graf, $7.95). An abandoned woman: This is the starting point of nearly all Jean Rhys's fiction, usually implying both senses of "abandoned." In this case, a young woman finds herself seduced into a bizarre menage a trois when her violent Polish husband is tossed into jail. Nothing will end happily, but Rhys's observations about Maria's confusions ring true and are expresed in prose both evocative and lapidary. As it happens, the general outlines of the novel follow some of the events in Rhys's own short-lived misalliance with Ford Madox Ford and his wife. Rhys's After Leaving Mr. MacKenzie ($8.95) is also available from Carroll & Graf.

The Oxford Book of Canadian Ghost Stories, edited by Alberto Manguel (Oxford, $16.95). At first glance, it would seem that Oxford is scraping the bottom of the barrel. What next? "The Oxford Book of Sestinas"? Still, out of this seemingly unpromising subject, world-class anthologist Manguel -- he has edited imaginative gatherings of supernatural shockers, tales of revenge, stories of family life -- has constructed a wide-ranging collection of work from the early 19th century to the present, with modern writers predominating: Robertson Davies, Farley Mowat, Jane Rule, Brian Moore, Mavis Gallant, W.P. Kinsella, Timothy Findley and others.

NONFICTION

Slang: The Topic-by-Topic Dictionary of Contemporary American Lingoes, by Paul Dickson (Pocket, $9.95). Wordsmith Paul Dickson's guide to the various kinds of insider terminology that might collectively be called "cabalspeak" covers such categories as Auctionese, Computerese, Performing Slang, and Yuppies, Dinks and Other Moderns. He combines an appreciation for the catchy and earthy (in real estate parlance a birdbath is a "paved area that holds water {even though it was not meant to}" and a LULU is a "Locally Unwanted Land Use") with a disdain for circumlocutions. He defines "at this point in time," found under the category Bureaucratese, as "Now. This phrase came into its own during the Watergate hearings, when one suspected that witnesses used it to give themselves extra time to think."

Citizen Welles: A Biography of Orson Welles, by Frank Brady (Anchor, $12.95). Orson Welles was such a towering figure (figuratively and literally) that the appearance of this third -- or is it fourth? -- biography of him in the last decade gives no cause for complaint. Brady is especially good on the first half of the great actor and filmmaker's career, including a long, bang-up account of the 1939 "War of the Worlds" radio controversy, but rather skimps on the sad, last years when Welles was still full of cinematic ideas but frustrated in his efforts to carry them out. He also suffered from imprisonment in his own image. In the author's words, it was "almost as if his persona had been constructed from diverse fictive elements, and then one day a young, very large actor came along to embody and embellish the myth of the man we came to know as Orson Welles."

Running the Amazon, by Joe Kane (Vintage, $9.95). The idea was for journalist Joe Kane to join the expedition (whose aim was to kayak the entire length of the world's longest river) as the wilderness equivalent of a roadie -- fetching supplies for the kayakers and otherwise acting as their dogsbody. In the event, so many men ahead of him dropped out that he was pressed into service on the front line -- and was ultimately one of only two paddlers to travel the whole distance. This is a riveting book about one of the last earthly adventures to deserve the epithet "epic."

On Liberty & Liberalism: The Case of John Stuart Mill, by Gertrude Himmelfarb (ICS Press, $10.95). In this exercise in intellectual history, first published in 1974, a distinguished American historian analyzes the polarity in Mill's thought. To Himmelfarb, Mill's plea in On Liberty for individual freedom as a near-absolute value stands at odds with the philosophy expressed in most of his other writings. Her inability to work out the puzzle of this inconsistency caused Himmelfarb to "scrap hundreds of pages of what had been intended as an intellectual biography of Mill" and eventually to produce this essay in reconciling diverse strains in his thought -- and in the process undermining what she considers to be an excessive 20th-century emphasis on individuality as opposed to such qualities as "justice, virtue and community."