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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

October 09, 1994|SUSAN SALTER REYNOLDS

HUNTING THE WHOLE WAY HOME by Sydney Lea (New England University Press: $19.95; 197 pp.) It's hunting season right now in New England. People are a little distracted because there's so much to do to get ready for winter, and all the traditional harvest celebrations and rituals are tinged with melancholy.That's what Sydney Lea's writing is like; many voices in a single man, life moving in cycles or seasons, and melancholy from guilt and regret. Hunting provides a metaphor for life and a code of behavior. It's also a way to get the hell out of the house and away from the typewriter. In the story "Buzzards," a young boy goes hunting with his aging father and 40 years later takes his 5-year-old son hunting. Everything else is different. In "Mercy on Beeson's Partridge," the writer, angry to be temporarily lame, rages with his cane in the kitchen, reminding himself of a scene from his childhood, in which the rage of a bitter old woman is expressed in the "hatchety" gestures of her cane. This is pure New England, both because of the depth and richness of the predictable seasons and behavior of the animals Lea hunts, but also in its narrowness, in the utter absence of even one exotic detail. "In a poem I published some years back," Lea writes, "I refer to myself as 'the dull bourgeois I would have despised.' That's what I am, for better or worse. I believe--shame!--it's for the better." Aside from the rhetorical musing on whether one can be an outdoorsman and a writer, these are lovely, self-conscious stories.

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