If Norman Vincent Peale did not exist, Norman Rockwell would have had to invent him. Or perhaps a resurrected Anthony Trollope might have told this story of a sweet, naive, unimaginative lad, born (1898) in an idyllic, unspoiled hamlet (Bowersville, Ohio), blessed with a golden tongue, cursed with an inferiority complex, and not much drawn to the ministry. But, once having opted for the pulpit, his soothing inspirational style, his simplistic Reader Digest Christianity, and his urgent need to escape poverty and provincial confinement (he now travels 200,000 miles a year) all conspire to make him the most celebrated purveyor of spiritual uplift for the Age of Anxiety. Actually, it's too bad Trollope didn't ghost Peale's laurel-strewn life--to give it some wit and ironic distance. Matriculating, almost on a whim, at the Boston U. School of Theology, Peale is ""a bit troubled"" by all the bother about the Social Gospel, but lets it pass. Things get a little nasty when some Protestant readers of The Power of Positive Thinking (1952) accuse him of diluting the New Testament, if not of practicing pious Babbittry; but Peale can--and often does--point complacently to his astonishing audience: 15,000,000 copies of Positive Thinking, 4,200,000 subscribers to his monthly Guideposts. And there are many more blessings to count: wonderful wife, three perfect kids, eight terrific grandchildren, splendid health, friendships with Lowell Thomas, Eddie Rickenbacker, President Eisen-hewer, Colonel Sanders, Lucille Ball. . . In some ways Peale really is a congenial character. He dislikes nobody, and has probably never hurt anyone. On the doctrinal side, Peale insists that prayer works, that there is life after death, and that good advice (like his minister father's, ""Always be real, son"") will solve most problems. Benign and bland.