The Good Times

by Russell Baker. Morrow $19.95. Mr. Baker’s mother, the daughter of a literate family fallen on Depression hard times, regularly exhorted her son to “Make something of yourself!” He did so, reaching that acme of journalistic ambition, his own respected and widely read column in The New York Times. How he did it is a straightforward success story, which he records gracefully but with extreme modesty and a curious undercurrent of melancholy. Apparently the maternal adjurations impressed upon the son a notion that success is always insufficient or undeserved or both.