AROUND AMERICA: A Tour of Our Magnificent Coastline

Walter Cronkite, Author . Norton $23.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-393-04083-8

In this cordial and breezy rumination on the people and places along America's seashores, Cronkite shows his reverence for the country's coastal beauty and for the craft of sailing, his chosen means of travel. Starting in the Northeast, working south, then circling around to the West Coast, the book reads like a lively but laid-back cruise, guided by a granddad singling out points of interest along the way. In Maine, for instance, "Christmas Cove was given its lovely name by the peripatetic Captain John Smith, who—guess what?—spent Christmas Day there in 1614." Cronkite's paternal tone is pronounced, not necessarily a bad thing, but not for all readers: to him, fireworks over the casinos of Atlantic City signify "some sinful accomplishment in those dens of iniquity," and the sight of the U.S.S. Constitution being tugged out into Boston Harbor brings "tears of appreciation to an old salt's eyes." One can't help hearing Cronkite's familiar broadcast voice, as his writing is so similar—soothing, dignified, informing and charming. Cronkite appreciates the ports' lore as much as he does the places themselves, and characters are far more likely to come from the annals of history than from the present-day towns along the way. His anecdotes are short, varied and engaging, and his descriptions have a quiet power even when they border on the saccharine: "Abed, under a blanket or two, we're sent to sleep by a gentle wind just strong enough to ripple the water against our hull and speed a whisper through the trees." It's hard not to be won over by Cronkite's earnestness; given the book's lighthearted and leisurely character, it's the perfect companion for a lazy day at the beach. 40 b&w illus. not seen by PW. (Aug.)

Forecast:Cronkite's nostalgic erudition will have an similar appeal similar to Jimmy Carter's recent An Hour Before Dawn. Some Northeastern book signings are in the works, including in New York.

Reviewed on: 06/18/2001
Release date: 08/01/2001
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Hardcover - 305 pages - 978-0-7862-3745-6
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