In the tradition of recent presidential memoirs, this has no great literary distinction, but it is short, sincere and straightforward. Mr. Carter uses quotations from his diary to hold together a narrative devoted almost entirely to foreign affairs. He was clearly happiest when attending to the myriad details necessary for the achievement of specific immediate objectives: Senate ratification of the Panama Treaties, normalization of diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China, the agreement on SALT II with the Soviets (never ratified), and the Camp David Accords. The chapters on these subjects are the best. Needless to say, the hostage crisis darkens the book as it did the Administration.