Overlook the subtitle and concentrate on Artifices and Artifacts of America--196-: or where pea butter and popcorn have yielded to other decals of the modern life we call civilization, pink plastic curlers, taxidermic surgery, and S & H green stamps. This is a very funny guided tour which leaves the driving to Chauncy Howell who ""Barbecues"" that vinyl Venus, the Barbie girl; Dan Wakefield who attends that pubertal rite de passage--Miss Teen Ago America in Dallas; Gene Shalit and Goodman Ace who provide the data on computer dating (""How come you're still single? Don't you know any nice computers?""); and Calvin Trillin at Yale trailing the Dow recruiter on a restless campus. Tom Wolfe will take you to Las Vegas and Herbert Gold to ""Reno: The Great Divide""; Ralph Schocnstein will introduce you to cemetery salesmen who offer you the ""Howard Johnsons of the Great Beyond""--indeed the living end; and a howlingly funny piece on the Famous Artists and Writers School by our favorite underachiever, Martin Kitman, which put a dead stop to another, nameless talent outfit for the rest of the afternoon. . . . Cautionary, swinging, phosphorescent entertainment, admittedly for the sophisticate.