A literary journey through Portugal from bottom to top, by a freelance writer with a reputation for erudite outdoor articles. From the Algarve to Tras os Montes, Proper and old-world confrere Adriano hunt and gather pieces of Portugal. Proper, an American, had spent a couple of years there while serving in the foreign service, and he knew there was much to take in if done appropriately. Hence the leisurely, sedate pace of the pair's countrywide ramble; they have time to stop and smell the roses, time to take a good look around. Proper's eye is for the telling detail, and he finds it everywhere—in the odd snippet of anthropology or passage of history, in a sampling of wine or a mythological tale. Language, national temperament, regional cooking, architectural styles, bookstores, markets—all yield something to Proper in his search for what makes Portugal distinctive. He also finds ample opportunity to indulge in two favorite pastimes: fly-fishing for trout and shotgunning for snipe and Portuguese partridge. Here, he takes all these disparate elements and fashions them into a place-portrait of beauty and depth and originality. The writing has an oblique character, with idiosyncratic gaps and fractures. Running through the book is a humor so dry it threatens to combust spontaneously, while a faint trace of poetry gives the account the woven qualities found in a good prose poem. The time and effort of a slow, close reading are repaid in spades. A charmer of a book, weird and wonderful. Proper is no longer the private property of the rod-and-gun club.
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