"Our greatest philosopher, who is Linus in the 'Peanuts' comic strip, has said, 'No problem is so big or so complicated it can't be run away from'," announced Jane Bryant Quinn, financial columnist and author of "Everyone's Money Book," at The Washington Post Book and Author Luncheon yesterday afternoon. "That's the attitude of our politicians, our government, our businesses toward inflation."

Quinn was one of three authors -- the others were Sen. Barry M. Goldwater (R-Ariz) and syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman -- who gave the crowd at the Sheraton Park Hotel some irreverent talk about themselves and their books.

"If I had an answer to inflation," said Quinn, "I'd run for president. I don't have the answer. Everyone nourishes inside themselves a get-rich-quick scheme that won't work. Those aren't in my book. Mine is the meat and potatoes of life."

In the hallway outside the dining room, two of the author's books were on sale -- but not Goodman's.

"I wanted to tell Jane that I manage my money well," said Goodman from the podium. "I'm the only author who doesn't have a book to sell." (They didn't arrive from New York on time.)

Goodman's book "Close To Home" is a collection of her columns grouped under such topics as "Our Times," "Women," Relationships," Family," "Foibles," and Social issues."

"People ask me, 'Where do you get your ideas?" Goodman said. "The answer -- desperation. They ask, "What if you don't like a column"' Publish it. Someone once said being a columnist is like being married to a nymphomaniac -- every time you think you're through, you have to start all over.

"I've felt a kind of alienation between readers and newspapers," said Goodman.. "I wanted to bridge that gap. I want to be not a pontificator but a person -- a mother, a vegetable gardener, a failed jogger."

Goldwater, the author of "With No Apologies," his memoirs of his personal and political life, began his talk with: "Last night was Halloween; I had a good time. I dressed up as Jimmy Carter and scared the hell out of people.

Goldwater said he is often asked how he has the time to write. "I don't," he said. "I have help. I get ideas -- I jot them down or put them on tape. Then I take them to members of my staff and they put them in order and we get something."