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MY DATELESS DIARY: An American Journey by R. K. Narayan (Penguin: $6.95)

October 22, 1989|CHARLES SOLOMON

From Alexis de Tocqueville to ALF, foreigners traditionally have offered the most insightful comments on American mores and foibles. During the early '60s, Indian novelist R. K. Narayan traversed the United States, carefully recording his bewilderment at such curious American phenomena as cafeterias and the New York subway system. He's bemused by the cheerful vulgarity of a woman who expects facile answers to complex metaphysical questions, dismayed by the crudely made brew American restaurants call coffee and charmed by the reclusive Greta Garbo. A chapter on Los Angeles includes notes on meeting Aldous Huxley and various studio executives, descriptions of the vanished charms of Pershing Square and dismayed reactions to the smog and traffic. Highly entertaining sketches of the United States as seen through Indian eyes.

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