On the Road
I ENJOY travel stories of motorcyclists, especially those of solo circumnavigation. In a car you take your protection from the elements with you. With a traveling companion you take your world with you. Alone on a motorcycle you are open to everything and everyone. This makes all the difference. My two favorite books are: One-Man Caravan by Robert Edison Fulton, Jr., (published in 1937 and now out of print) and Jupiter's Travels by Ted Simon (published in 1980 and now out of print). Fulton, who invented a half-car/half-airplane and the "Sky Hook" for retrieving downed aircrew, travelled 40,000 miles around the world in 17 months on a Douglas motorcycle in the 1930s. Simon rode 63,000 miles in four years on a Triumph motorcycle in the 1970s.
Dangerous? Yes, to some extent, but a lone traveler threatens no one, and can go freely in times and places that are closed to other travelers. Fulton met people who advised him against continuing his chosen route due to thieves and cutthroats in the next village. He arrived in the next village to cries of astonishment that he made it safely out of the nest of thieves he just left! Solitary travelers seek to discover something of themselves; they often find something of humankind as well. CHRISTOPHER NORLOFF Great Mills, Md.
Down to the Sea
YOU DON'T have to be an experienced mariner, or even a Sunday sailor, to appreciate and enjoy Sailing Alone Around the World, Capt. Joshua Slocum's classic account of his amazing accomplishment nearly 100 years ago. A skillful writer as well as a superb sailor, Slocum tells how he rebuilt the 37-foot sloop Spray in Fairhaven, Mass., and resolved to attempt the impossible -- the first solo voyage around the world.
A lifetime at sea, as sailor and later skipper on sailing voyages to many lands, gave him the necessary skills and self-reliance for his epic voyage. Singlehandedly, this intrepid sailor, confronting every kind of danger stormy seas present, using only celestial navigation and a dollar tin clock, completed the 46,000-mile voyage in just over three years.
Slocum's book was published to great acclaim and was a best-seller in England; it was reprinted many times, and for a time was required reading in American schools. Sure to stimulate the imagination of young and old, it is an unforgettable part of America's seafaring traditions.
The book is available from several publishers in paperback and hardcover. MARY F. WITT Bethesda
The Women's Room
IF I'M KEPT waiting somewhere I often fish around in the diaper bag for my worn paperback copy of Sheila Ballantyne's Norma Jean, the Termite Queen. This dark, comic novel, first published in 1975, is now available as part of the Penguin Contemporary American Fiction Series. It details Norma Jean Harris's efforts to start sculpting again after 10 years of nonstop suburban domesticity, and to carve out a small creative niche for herself amid three small children, a stubborn professor husband, three cats and 15 houseplants, all of which are accustomed to having their needs met, immediately.
In less skillful hands than Ballantyne's, such familiar literary territory could have been as heavy as a beginner's yeast bread, but her wit and keen eye make this novel a delight. Ballantyne's view of traditional marriage and motherhood is astringent, but she leaves Norma Jean -- and the reader -- open to experiencing the astonishment and joy that can be found in the familiar. Ballantyne also is one of the few writers who can create really convincing stream of consciousness dialogue. Norma Jean's mind darts from carpools to gory newspaper filler stories to McDonald's to Egyptian history. Ride along with her -- but hang on with both hands. LESLIE GOODMAN-MALAMUTH Washington, D.C.
And So, to Bed . . .
RECOMMENDED READING seems to be neglecting the diarists, so here are several: The Singing Brook Where the Willows Grow, is the diary of a remarkable little girl in Oregon in the 1900s. Opal Whiteley was only 6 when she began to chronicle the joys of her woodland wanderings. It is the bewitching diary of a magically gifted child whose sensitivity to the spirit and secrets of nature echo through her book. It is available in paperback from Warner.
Kilvert's Diary is the diary of a young clergyman, Robert Francis Kilvert, on the Welsh border in the second half of the last century. It is the work of a man with a watchful eye and a clear style. His detailed picture of life in the English countryside in mid-Victorian times is unmatched; one feels one gets to know him as a friend. The remarkable illustrations alone are well worth the price of the book. It is available in hardcover from David R. Godine.
On an entirely different plane are the Diaries of Joe Orton, the young playwright killed by his jealous homosexual lover. Scandalously outspoken, honest and humorous, Orton tells of his adventures in the London theater world and of his travels to North Africa. It is available in paperback from Harper and Row.
And last, let us not forget the pleasures of the old classics such as Samuel Pepys's diaries. All make great bedside books. IRIS M. GIRVAN McLean
Little House in the Mountains
THE EDUCATION OF LITTLE TREE is Forrest Carter's true story of the childhood years he spent with his Cherokee grandparents in the hills of Tennessee during the 1930s. Carter tells his story from the perspective of his 5-year-old self, but with the wisdom and style of an adult looking back fondly at a special time in his life. Although he somtimes pokes fun at his grandfather's staunch opinions or ignorance of the modern world, he makes it clear that at their core his grandparents possessed a level of wisdom, dignity and strength we all would do well to attain.
Carter gently weaves several themes throughout the book -- man's need to love and understand nature in order to live in harmony with it; the importance of having a zest for learning that includes everything from the classics to folk wisdom; and being patient and understanding with the people you truly care for.
The Education of Little Tree is a timeless classic that will make an indelible impression on readers of all ages. It was reissued in paperback by the University of New Mexico Press in 1986. ROBERT L. GLUCK Herndon
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