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Books to Go : Literary Collectivism

August 13, 1995|JOHN MUNCIE

TRAVELERS' TALES: France edited by James O'Reilly, Larry Habegger and Sean O'Reilly; TRAVELERS' TALES: India edited by James O'Reilly and Larry Habegger; TRAVELERS' TALES: A Woman's World edited by Marybeth Bond (all by Travelers' Tales, Inc., $17.95, paper).

Another set in a growing collection--six published, eight more scheduled for release in the next 18 months. Each book contains more than 50 contemporary stories, mostly reprints from magazines, books or newspapers. The books are lots of fun to dip into; in sum, they create a strong sense of place.

"India" emphasizes adventures by outsiders (usually Americans) trying to make sense of the dirt, sweat and spiritualism of the subcontinent. "Woman" includes adventures of all sorts, from an exhilarating Everest ascent to a chilling rape in Italy.

"France" is the best of the three collections. It pays homage to the good life, as defined by the French. When confronted by the French superiority complex, the writers surrender without a fight. The story subjects are generally unambitious: biking in the rain, watching a Paris street scene, running through the Van Gogh landscapes of Auvers. Donovan Webster's profile of the governmental agency responsible for cleaning up explosives left over from two world wars (reprinted from "Smithsonian" magazine) and Ronald Koven's examination of France's attitude toward its own history, are two notable exceptions. The writing quality is uneven throughout--not surprisingly, Peter Mayle, M.F.K. Fisher and Jan Morris stand out--but charm prevails.

*

Quick trips:

CHRONICLES ABROAD: Istanbul; CHRONICLES ABROAD: St. Petersburg edited by John and Kirsten Miller (all by Chronicle Books, $13.95). This is the third set in a delightful series. Previously, the Millers anthologized Venice, Cairo, Hong Kong and Prague. In each volume, the city is seen through the eyes of a dozen writers. There are fables, stories, dispatches, poems, excerpts and letters home all centering on or taking place in the spotlighted city. Some of the authors are famous--Tolstoy's story "Father Sergius" is reprinted in the St. Petersburg book--some anonymous, some ancient, some modern. The works, each only a few pages, range from the sublime to Michael Palin. The books are small (5 inches by 6 inches), giving readers the delicious feeling they're picking up someone's diary.

KODAK GUIDE TO SHOOTING GREAT TRAVEL PICTURES: How to Take Travel Pictures Like a Pro by Jeff Wignall (Fodor's Travel Publications, Inc., $16.50, paper). Not a technical book. There's little here about f-stops or focal lengths. This guide is more about developing a photographer's eye. Generally, the book is set up so that the left-hand page explains the type of shot a traveler is likely to encounter--autumn colors, moon-lit landscapes, panoramas, rainy scenes--and the right-hand illustrates (with professional photos) some possible results.

Books to Go appears the second and fourth week of every month.

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