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July 21, 1996|CHARLES SOLOMON

WHAT THE RIVER KNOWS: An Angler in Midstream by Wayne Fields (University of Chicago Press: $14.95; 256 pp.). The author's efforts to wade a stretch of a small river on Michigan's Upper Peninsula trigger a warm meditation on aging. As he revisits familiar places along the stream, Fields muses on how the years alter a family, as children grow up and find lives of their own: "Though I knew all along that such was the nature of the contract, I had thought the ultimate settlement too far off for fretting. . . . So I see Rumpelstiltskin's inevitable approach and watch helplessly as he comes to lay claim on our young. Pronouncing his name will be to no avail this time." Fields' self-deprecating humor prevents his thoughts from becoming ponderous.

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