NONFICTION

Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality, by Paul Barber (Yale, $27.50). The fictional and the folkloric vampire "would be unlikely to meet socially," writes the author, "for the fictional vampire tends to spring from the nobility and to live in a castle, while the folkloric vampire is of peasant stock and resides (during the day at least) in the graveyard in which he was buried." The sinister nobleman of Dracula novels and movies, then, is a derivative figure, the spruced-up descendant of a more disheveled model from Slavic mythology: the living corpse that roams the world in search of reinvigorating blood and initiates to the brotherhood.

Culture in an Age of Money: The Legacy of the 1980s in America, edited with an introduction by Nicholaus Mills (Ivan R. Dee, $22.50). This is a collection of essays on "why the new conservative culture of the 1980s was so dominant and what we can learn from the opposition to it," from an array of left-leaning critics that includes sociologist Todd Gitlin, New Republic editor Hendrik Hertzberg, law professor Herman Schwartz and man-of-letters Irving Howe. One of the most interesting pieces is a look at "The Literature of AIDS" by Mark Caldwell. Most reviewers have praised Randy Shilts's And the Band Played On for its objective and unflinching look at the spread of the disease, but Caldwell detects internalized homophobia in the author, and savages his book for the "grating emotionalism of its ace-reporter language." Caldwell holds up Susan Sontag's AIDS and Its Metaphors as the one book that takes "a more useful, less punishing approach to AIDS."

In the Country of Hearts: Journeys in the Art of Medicine, by John Stone (Delacorte, $17.95). The author is a poet-cardiologist, a combination so rare that it evokes awe. This collection of essays drawn from his medical practice is suffused with poetry, especially that of Emily Dickinson. In a poignant scene, Stone is summoned across the street by a neighbor who believes that her husband has just died. In fact, he has a few more breaths left to take, which Stone records in terse, respectful prose. Afterwards, walking home, Stone recalls Dickinson's lyric, "There's Been a Death in the Opposite House."

Origins of Terrorism: Psychologies, Ideologies, Theologies, States of mind, edited by Walter Reich (Cambridge University Press, $44.50; paperback, $13.95). "Even the briefest review of the history of terrorism reveals how varied and complex a phenomenon it is, and therefore how futile it is to attribute simple, global, and general psychological characteristics to all terrorists and all terrorisms." That said, the 15 scholars represented in this collection pursue the pathology of terrorism through the centuries. Clearly, terrorists have always been a fact of life -- think only of the Zealots of Judea, the Assassins of 13th-century Islam and the People's Will of 19th-century Russia. More contempory-minded readers will welcome the discussion here of the Weathermen of the United States, the Red Brigades of Italy and Northern Ireland's Provisional IRA. Tentative in their conclusions, these essays nevertheless sift through a fascinating amount of information.

Ridgway Duels for Korea, by Roy E. Appleman (Texas A&M University Press, $39.50). The author is writing the most complete operational history of the Korean War, a conflict that the dust jacket of this book complains "has been institutionalized as a television sitcom." In this volume (preceded by South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu; Disaster in Korea: The Chinese Confront MacArthur and Escaping the Trap: The U.S. X Corps in Northeast Korea), Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway assumes command of the United Nations forces, stops their retreat and about faces them to maneuver the Chinese and North Korean armies back to a line north of the 38th Parallel, thereby, says the author, redeeming "the military honor of the United States in the eyes of the world." The narrative ends as truce talks open in July 1951.

Missionary for Freedom: The Life and Times of Walter Judd, by Lee Edwards (Paragon House, $21.95). In a long life (he's now 92), Walter Judd has been many things: medical missionary, internationalist, passionate friend of China (especially Nationalist China), 10-term Republican congressman from Minnesota. Above all, he's been an individualist. Washington oldtimers will remember his red face (the result of x-ray treatments for acne as a young man) and honor the idealism he articulated, even when they disagreed with him. This admiring biography recaptures a forceful political personality.

To Wit: Skin and Bones of Comedy, by Penelope Gilliatt (Scribners, $24.95). Mordantly funny and pun-passionate herself, British writer and critic Penelope Gilliatt here indulges the predilection of a lifetime in this diverting study of "the genius of funniness." Mindful, with Goethe, that "to explain is to destroy," Gilliatt nevertheless bravely dissects the nature of what makes us laugh, and the thousand different ways in which we laugh, at the work of comic masters from Shakespeare, Buster Keaton and Jacques Tati to Gogol, Luis Bunuel, John Cleese and Whoopi Goldberg. As a film and theater critic, she draws most of her material from performed as opposed to written comedy, but she spots moments of great comedy in everyday life, too: "I saw, many times, a stocky rich man coming in alone to the Algonquin to lunch. Coat, briefcase, hat, muffler handed to the hatcheck girl. Three-course meal alone. One day he gave his usual single nickel to the girl. She said, 'Thank.' "