The ""Leaves from the Notebook of a China Correspondent"" comprise a book guaranteed to irritate Mao-philes and please Sinologists. There is hardly a statistic in it; the detailed picture of life in China that it offers is admittedly a very limited one, and the conclusions drawn are openly subjective. Marcuse is an Old China Hand who loves the land and people; he has spent more than half his adult life there, including the thirty months beginning in 1962 upon which this book is primarily based. As a permanent correspondent, he did not get the VIP's showcase tour. Unable to travel far from the capital, he studied the ""home consumption"" press and the shadow-play of Peking bureaucracy. He is not unaware of the physical improvements made by the Communists, but they remind him of the achievements of Mussolini's Italy and Hitler's Germany--with all that implies. He sees ""old and sick Mao and younger but sicker Lin Piao"" farther and farther out of touch with reality, and time running out for the whole tenable status quo. The Red Guards, he feels, could only be the product of a ""counsel of despair."" This is an astute and absorbing book.