THE RESCUE OF MISS YASKELL And Other Pipe Dreams by Russell Baker (Plume: $8.95)

In the opening chapter of this collection of "Observer" columns, Pulitzer Prize-winner Russell Baker writes with gentle affection about revisiting the homes of his Southern relatives. The nostalgic tone of these essays contrast sharply with his tongue-in-cheek lampoons of the absurdities of urban life during the '80s. The subjects of his pointed and funny satires range from the military procurement scandal ("Merrily We Pentagon") to a car alarm that annoys people but fails to discourage burglars ("it continues to howl, even after the thief has left the neighborhood"). Baker's humor never seems strained or forced, but the columns in this anthology are best read a few at a time.

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