The Secret Life of Dogs: Cartoons, by David Sipress (Plume, $5.95). "It's a dog's life," proclaims a man in one of the cartoons in this book. His dog, lying on the floor, looks up and says, "So, what else is new?" In another cartoon, a man orders his dog to play dead. "That's sick!" the dog responds. But not all these drawings have to do with men and dogs. In several, dogs and cats confront their differences. A dog, eating side by side with a cat, asks, "How can you eat that stuff?" And in one series of cartoons, a dog closes his argument over the relative merits of dogs and cats with the observation that "I'll have you know that dogs are man's best friend." Completely unperturbed, the cat responds, "I rest my case."

Higher Ground: A Novel in Three Parts, by Caryl Phillips (Penguin, $7.95). This triptych concerns three different people in three different places at three different times. The first is an African who has decided to cooperate with white slave traders. Trusted by neither black nor white, he becomes an outcast, despised as a collaborator by both sides. In the second, a black man jailed in the South writes home about his despair and the hopelessness of his situation. And in the third, a Polish woman in England after World War II finds herself still crippled by the memory of life during wartime.

Fever: Twelve Stories, by John Edgar Wideman (Penguin, $7.95). The stories in this collection show something of the range of PEN/Faulkner Award winner John Edgar Wideman. They include "Doc's Story," which appears to be a tall tale about a blind basketball player, but is really a lament for lost love, as well as "Surfiction," a metafictional, metacritical meditation on the fiction of Charles Chesnutt. The title story is about an epidemic of yellow fever in Philadelphia in the late 1700s that uses the plague as a metaphor for American racism of this century.


Whose Broad Stripes and Bright Stars? The Trivial Pursuit of the Presidency 1988, by Jack W. Germond and Jules Witcover (Warner, $12.95). Webster, Clay and Calhoun the campaign wasn't. But it did spawn some distinguished political reporting, among which this book contains some of the cream: "An emotional highlight was Jackson's return to Selma, Alabama, where more than two decades earlier he had taken part in the city's famous and brutal civil rights march. He was met by Mayor Joe Smitherman, who twenty-five years ago had tried to have him arrested. Now he gave Jackson the key to the city. 'He understood the new math of the South,' {Jackson issues director Robert} Borosage said, referring to heavy black voter registration in Selma, which by this time had put three blacks on the City Council while keeping Smitherman."

Italo Balbo: A Fascist Life, by Claudio G. Segre` (University of California Press, $12.95). The Italian aviator Italo Balbo was Mussolini's role model for the Italian "new man" -- a Renaissance condottiero at once heroic, adventurous, self-sacrificing, patriotic, yet modern, the fit heir to the Rome of the ancients. Thanks to his pioneering aeronautical exploits in the '20s and '30s -- among them, two transatlantic flights -- he enjoyed international renown. Everywhere he went -- the Soviet Union, the United States -- he presented himself as the representative of fascist Italy. This absorbing biography of an engaging fellow brings to life the spirit of an era. Although Balbo disagreed with Mussolini's alliance with Hitler, he loyally served Il Duce. Scarcely 44, he was shot down accidentally by his own men in Libya in June 1940, shortly after Italian entry into World War II.

England in the 1890s: Literary Publishing at the Bodley Head, by Margaret D. Stetz and Mark Samuels Lasner (Georgetown University Press, $18.50). The 1890s was the heyday of esthetes and decadents (Beardsley, Wilde, Beerbohm), but also a crucial period in the development of fine printing, a time when private publishers like the Kelmscott Press flourished and even commercial publishers like the Bodley Head practiced innovative book-making. This catalogue commemorates an exhibit of books, letters and artwork shown last winter and spring at the Georgetown University Library; more than 100 items are listed with accompanying commentary (much of it witty as well as informative).

Mountain in the Clouds: A Search for the Wild Salmon, by Bruce Brown (Collier, $12.95). For centuries the salmon was not only the staple diet but the very symbol of the Pacific Northwest, and thus its decline in the 20th century boded ill for the regional economy and identity. Bruce Brown chronicled that decline in this eloquent book, which has been reissued eight years after publication with a new preface. The author logs some improvements in the intervening years -- for example, some enlargements of the wilderness system in Washington State -- but notes that outsiders are still too quick to blame Indian fishing practices for losses attributable to "whites' own much more damaging activities."