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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

August 18, 1991|Chris Goodrich

STREETS WITH NO NAMES: A Journey Into Central and South America by Stryker McGuire (Atlantic Monthly Press: $21.95; 291 pp.). Conclusive proof it's not, but "Streets With No Names" could well serve as Exhibit A in the attempt to demonstrate that newsmagazine writers do not make good travel writers. Stryker McGuire is now chief of correspondents for Newsweek, and a reader of this book won't be able to forget that affiliation for a moment because it's so full of amusing factoids, thumbnail histories, symbolic people and moments, and colorful, facile writing . . . just the sort of thing, in short, that goes from the mailbox to the recycling bin in a matter of hours. "Streets With No Names" isn't a bad book, but it is formulaic, lacking the sense of place, of immersion in a foreign culture, that make for good travel writing. McGuire does make distinctions among the nine countries through which he passes, but he does so sweepingly, glibly: Costa Rica becomes "Connecticut with volcanoes," Guatemala a "sham democracy," Peru a land of constant decline, etc. This is travel writing for those who love USA Today.

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