The only real surprise in this conglomeration of success stories is how very similar different kinds of success can be. Let's take humorist Erma Bombeck. She knew from the day she hit seventh grade not only that she wanted to write, but that she wanted to write humor. Mom was so gutsy, and her high school English teacher so insistent, that no one in her right mind could decline to succeed. Twenty-four pastel portraits sit side-by-side in the subjects' own words--narratives drawn from interviews, with the actual questions discreetly removed. By book's end, one could almost guess the standard questions: Who influenced your life the most? What was your childhood like? Did you always want to be what you are today? The answers are: (a) Mom, Dad, teacher, veteran in the field, or patron; (b) poor and dream-ridden; and (c) pretty nearly. The spectrum covers spectacular early attainments (choreographer/director Ron Field) and mature success (human development pioneer Mary S. Calderone, actress Louise Fletcher). A few executives and social innovators are tucked in, but the bulk of the attention goes to the arts. Aspiring writers, for example, will find the years dedicated to journalistic preparation by an Alvin Toffler or a Judith Crist eye-opening. But overall the patterns are too pat, the implied formulas for success too seductively simple.