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Books to Go

Exploring Personal and Visual Landscapes

May 12, 1996|JOHN MUNCIE

THE MAZE: A Desert Journey by Lucy Rees (The Countryman Press, $21).

A maze is a powerful metaphor. It implies entrapment and escape and the unknown. It smacks of mystery and puzzles. It's also a dark burden for any travel book to bear.

The least complicating maze that Lucy Rees confronts in "Desert Journey" is an ancient one found carved on a rock near the coast of Cornwall, England, and echoed by one cut into a rock on an ancestral mesa in Arizona's Hopi country. The Hopi maze became the ostensible goal of a desert horseback trip from Paulden, Ariz., (not far from Prescott) to the reservation mesa. Rees is a noted Welsh writer and horsewoman; with her was her boyfriend, Rick Eastwood, a sometimes reluctant traveling companion.

The ride was a haphazard venture at best. During their weeks on the trail Rees and Eastwood relied on the kindness of friends and strangers, and on the whims of two decidedly fractious horses. Rees writes about the human and equestrian tribulations in gently ironic tones. She loves horses and though she anthropomorphizes them shamelessly, she manages to make them far more interesting than icky.

But the real journey for Rees is into a maze where the Minotaur of her past lurks. And this is both the strength and failure of the book. Right in the middle of a horse ride, readers find themselves in a personal landscape of miscarriage, birth, death, devotion and desertion. It's visceral stuff, well drawn. Does it work alongside saddles, cinches and cactuses? Not really. Someday, perhaps Rees will separate the two subjects. Both are deserving of her full attention.

ETHNIC NEW YORK: A Complete Guide to the Many Faces & Cultures of New York by Mark Leeds (Passport Books, $14.95, maps, paperback).

Leeds divides the city into 12 ethnic groups, from Scandinavians, to the Irish, to African Americans to East Indians. Each section begins with an introductory history of the group's arrival and its impact on the city. The sections are then subdivided into various ethnic-flavored neighborhoods, with their restaurants, bars, clubs and shops. It's an amazing collection of stuff. In the Jewish section, for example, we find that Zabar's on Broadway at 80th is where Barbra Streisand goes when she craves bagels. If you're looking for traditional Puerto Rican folk medicines, Leeds has that too. This is the second edition of a fine travel reference.

DINO-TREKKING: The Ultimate Dinosaur Lover's Travel Guide by Kelly Milner Halls (John Wiley & Sons, $14.95, illustrations, paperback).

If there's a dinosaur-mad child in your family, this might come in handy for planning your next vacation. Halls describes 300 dinosaur-connected attractions in the United States and Canada, including museums, nature preserves, state parks and amusement parks. Some of these spots are pretty silly (Dinosaur World, an Arkansas RV park that boasts life-size dinosaur models) and some are sublime (Montana's Museum of the Rockies). Each place is rated from zero to three bones. The book includes short commentaries from a number of museum curators, a list of fossil shops and an illustrated guide to some of the better-known dinosaurs and prehistoric mammals.

Quick trip

100 BEST HONEYMOON RESORTS OF THE WORLD by Katharine D. Dyson (The Globe Pequot Press, $18.95, paperback). The publishers tout Dyson as a "honeymoon-travel expert." How do we believe it? She dedicates this guide to only one husband. Liz Taylor, on the other hand, might have some real credibility. With accommodations averaging more than $300 per night, this is a list only big spenders could love.

BICYCLING COAST TO COAST: The Complete Route Guide Virginia to Oregon by Donna Lynn Ikenberry (The Mountaineers, $16.95, photos, maps, paperback). A 4,100-plus-mile route from Yorktown, Va., to the Oregon coast. Ikenberry has divided the trek into 77 or 81 daily segments, depending on the Oregon destination. Practically mile-by-mile details.

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

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