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December 30, 1990|Charles Solomon

ERNIE'S AMERICA: The Best of Ernie Pyle's 1930s Travel Dispatches, edited by David Nichols (Vintage: $14.95). Forty-five years after his death on Ie Shima, an island near Okinawa, Ernie Pyle is remembered primarily for his World War II reportage, but his columns about America had made him one of the most famous journalists in the country during the previous decade: His influence can be seen in the work of many contemporary reporters, including Charles Hillinger and Charles Kuralt. Pyle's clear, unaffected prose captures the voices of an improbable assortment of characters without ever seeming patronizing, whether he's profiling a die-hard Prohibitionist, a dedicated teacher at an impoverished Appalachian school or the former star of a Yukon dance hall. Pyle also loved the American land, and many of his essays glow with the delight he took in the woods and mountains. This delight gives his appalled descriptions of the Dust Bowl an added power.

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