The leading lady of television's An American Family attempts to think her way through the collapse of her marriage -- which was already rocky when the shooting began -- and the public response. Indeed, the Louds consented to the series precisely because they thought that by ""letting it all hang out"" before a camera they would gain some ""insight."" Then, too, there was producer Craig Gilbert, who, Loud charges, wanted to record the dissolution of a family in order to validate his thesis that marriage is a floundering institution, a contention resulting from the failure of his own. As Pat Loud's confidant he exploited her confusion by pressuring her to allow the camera's presence when she told her husband she intended to divorce him. But if the film, as Loud contends, ""denuded us of such honor and dignity as we owned,"" if the ""insight"" it brought was ""more than I bargained for. I never asked to know this much,"" why does she again offer her family as ""public targets to take potshots at"" in writing the book? Despite the axes she grinds, she can be objective and lucid: she relates much of her ordeal to her acceptance of marriage as a weltanschauung; she is compassionate toward her ex-husband, although she rages at his infidelities. Now, in the aftermath of the divorce, facing her children's adulthood, she is whelmed by feelings of failure. Loud demonstrates intelligence and authenticity, and one is left with the impression that her experience, devastating though it was, had to be endured to permit the growth that it has clearly fostered.