Award-winning sportswriter Albom was a student at Brandeis University, some two decades ago, of sociologist Morrie Schwartz. Here Albom recounts how, recently, as the old man was dying, he renewed his warm relationship with his revered mentor. This is the vivid record of the teacher's battle with muscle- wasting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease. The dying man, largely because of his life-affirming attitude toward his death-dealing illness, became a sort of thanatopic guru, and was the subject of three Ted Koppel interviews on Nightline. That was how the author first learned of Morrie's condition. Albom well fulfilled the age-old obligation to visit the sick. He calls his weekly visits to his teacher his last class, and the present book a term paper. The subject: The Meaning of Life. Unfortunately, but surely not surprisingly, those relying on this text will not actually learn The Meaning of Life here. Albom does not present a full transcript of the regular Tuesday talks. Rather, he expands a little on the professor's aphorisms, which are, to be sure, unassailable. ``Love is the only rational act,'' Morrie said. ``Love each other or perish,'' he warned, quoting Auden. Albom learned well the teaching that ``death ends a life, not a relationship.'' The love between the old man and the younger one is manifest. This book, small and easily digested, stopping just short of the maudlin and the mawkish, is on the whole sincere, sentimental, and skillful. (The substantial costs of Morrie's last illness, Albom tells us, were partly defrayed by the publisher's advance). Place it under the heading ``Inspirational.'' ``Death,'' said Morrie, ``is as natural as life. It's part of the deal we made.'' If that is so (and it's not a notion quickly gainsaid), this book could well have been called ``The Art of the Deal.''