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FINDING THE TRAPDOOR by Adam Hochschild

FINDING THE TRAPDOOR

Essays, Portraits, Travels

By Adam Hochschild

Pub Date: June 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-8156-0447-5
Publisher: Syracuse Univ.

 A collection of magazine articles and time-bound reportage by the estimable Hochschild (The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin, 1994, etc.), cofounder of Mother Jones magazine. Hochschild is a thoughtful, discerning reporter and a solid writer, but some of this material may seem a little stale, like picking up a decade-old newsmagazine and reading about life in the Soviet Union. Still, he's quite good in pieces such as ``Aristocratic Revolutionary,'' a 1985 profile of Patrick Duncan, a white South African who was editor of an anti-apartheid paper in the early 1960s. One of his best pieces is a 1978 profile of Jan Yoors, a Belgian youth who ran away with the gypsies in 1934; Hochschild found the renowned author of The Gypsies and Crossing residing near Washington Square, a double amputee who made his living designing and weaving tapestries. Another visit finds the author in the French Alps with novelist and art critic John Berger, whom he liked ``because he was the first writer I've run across who could explain why so much fine art is boring.'' Hochschild traveled extensively for these pieces: Mississippi, the Soviet Union, Senegal, El Salvador, South Africa, the Amazon. One 1995 article finds him in Colombia to witness the Indians' ``startling migration in reverse'': They were leaving the towns and missions and ``rebuilding their traditional dwellings deep in the forest.'' A few literary essays are included, most notably a penetrating search for the young, sensitive Hemingway who existed before the myth, the ``Papa'' persona, the compulsive braggart, took over. And charmingly, this redoubtable peacenik of the '60s and '70s confesses to a lifelong addiction to war novels and books about combat. These pieces speak clearly to the times in which they were written, but not to the ages. (illustrations, not seen)