WASHINGTON SCHLEPPED HERE: Walking in the Nation's Capital

Sallie Ann Robinson, Author, Gregory Wrenn Smith, Joint Author, Gregory Wrenn Smith, Photographer . Crown Journeys $16 (160p) ISBN 1-4000-4687-4

Buckley (No Way to Treat a First Lady) presents an engaging introduction to the highlights of monumental Washington in this collection of walking tours. While some readers might have appreciated a stroll through some of the capital's less-visited quarters (his tours barely venture beyond the Mall), Buckley digs up enough historical tidbits about even greatest hits stops like the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and Washington Monument to let veteran tourists see them freshly. His approach—combining the stories of those who built Washington and the stories of those who ruled it—pays off in rich anecdotes about, for instance, Pierre L'Enfant, the city's designer, who died in poverty, and James McNeill Whistler, who created the Freer Gallery's Peacock Room in a defiant act of artistic license. It's useful, too, to have a guide who's a former Washington insider (Buckley worked as a speechwriter to Vice-president Bush during Reagan's first term) and actually knows what it's like to steal stationery from Air Force One. Buckley's tendency to let jokes tell the stories is occasionally confusing: for instance, he writes, "Congress immediately passed a law prohibiting vice-presidents from speaking in verse; it remains on the books today." If he's not kidding he should elaborate, and if he is, well, he should be funnier. This isn't a critical guide to Washington—Buckley wears his conservative and patriotic credentials on his sleeve—and it is unlikely to appeal to anyone looking for insight into the Washington its residents actually inhabit, but its anecdotes, alternately frivolous and solemn, make a good companion to D.C.'s best-known attractions. Agent, Amanda Urban. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/24/2003
Release date: 00/00/0000
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