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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

August 16, 1992|CHRIS GOODRICH

BIG MUDDY: Down the Mississippi Through America's Heartland by B. C. Hall and C. T. Wood (Dutton: $23; 352 pp.) Like the Peter Canby book, "Big Muddy" is a travelogue that suffers from pedestrian language and an overextended agenda . . . but without the saving grace of originality. B. C. Hall, a novelist and English professor, and C. T. Wood, an economist, are Southerners who hoped to pay homage to Mark Twain and the Mississippi by boating the river of their youth from its headwaters to the Gulf. In fact, they ended up driving alongside the river on Highway 61 in an old Lincoln "land-yacht" dubbed Grant II "because it was good company and drank a lot." That's about as inspired as "Big Muddy" gets; its medley of historical facts, local anecdotes and first-person reportage is blended in the predictable travel-book manner. Hall and Wood now and then tell lesser-known tales of the river--the one about the hustler, for example, who danced around the table playing his fiddle as his partner played cards, revealing with the tunes he chose the hands of the other players--but much of the time readers will find their minds wandering.

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