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February 03, 1991|Charles Solomon

TIMELESS TOWNS AND HAUNTED PLACES FROM FLORIDA TO MAINE by J.R. Humphreys (St. Martin's Press: $13.95, illustrated). During the mid-1980s, Humphreys and wife wandered the little-traveled roads of the Eastern United States, exploring places that hadn't succumbed to the homogenizing blight of urban renewal. Their search for the roots of their families and their country took them to graveyards and converted inns, to ruined foundations and carefully tended parks. Humphreys explains his fascination with the traces of a vanished America in a passage that recalls Proust's vision of an enduring, internal past mysteriously evoked by external elements: "In the world of the past, I see the people who have been here before me, who are a part of me, and with the help of what they've left behind that I can see and touch, this moment in the seamless present is made more real by the past's added dimension." Following the listings in this agreeably lightweight travelogue can add a welcome, extra dimension to a trip East.

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