SOMEWHERE IN AMERICA: Under the Radar with Chicken Warriors, Left-Wing Patriots, Angry Nudists, and Others

Mark Singer, Author . Houghton Mifflin $24 (255p) ISBN 978-0-618-19724-8

As the New Yorker 's "U.S. Journal" columnist, Singer begins this collection of his essays with a deep bow to Calvin Trillin, who originated the magazine's section. Indeed, some of Singer's jaunts through our country's back roads and urban centers seem like journeys Trillin would make, complete with commentary on hidden towns and eccentric folk. But Singer distinguishes himself from his predecessor and mentor with a style that's distinctive and, best of all, addictive. His tales take their time without wandering, and enchant without a trace of nostalgia. He's most adept at balancing reportage with a human-interest angle, as when he writes about a car accident that resulted in a young woman's death. Although the town weeps for the victim's husband and daughter, a cloud of suspicion about the husband lingers for the woman's family, and Singer's details about the case make it immediate and compelling. In other essays, he takes on a wide range of stories; nothing seems beneath his curiosity. A standout is the outrage of a Connecticut community when a citizen wants to build an abomination: "Oddly, for a place with a long history of devotion to genteel leisure, the perceived lethal weapon aimed at Norfolk's soul is a luxury golf course." From there, the wrangling over a stretch of land achieves absurd, fascinating proportions. Singer's travelogue, which also includes cockfighting, school prayer, potluck picnics and motorcycle clubs, is a journey definitely worth taking. Agents, Andrew Wylie and Jeff Posternak. (June 17)

Forecast: Ads in the New Yorker will lure Singer's fans, who may also want to pick up the simultaneously published paperback edition of Singer's Funny Money (Mariner, $13 ISBN 0-618-19727-3), which will feature a new afterword.

Reviewed on: 05/10/2004
Release date: 06/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 255 pages - 978-0-618-58168-9
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