SPRING JAUNTS by Anthony Bailey


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Wildflowers carpet the meadows, butterflies abound: spring has sprung, bringing with it the annual crop of outdoor-related books. This collection of essays by The New Yorker staff writer captures the season with style: it's as gentle as bird song, as quiet--some might say dull--as a twilight double-header. Most of the pieces describe waterfront walks--around the Isle of Wight (where Bailey grew up), around Manhattan, along the Cote D'Azur, down the 18-mile-long New Hampshire coast. One suspects that Bailey's foot-stride matches his writing style: wry, spare, unemotional, the quintessential New Yorker approach. He likes to stop and chat with passers-by, speculate about the weather, discourse on local history, note the state of his body (""One difficulty of beach walking is that after a while you feel one leg is getting longer than the other""). It's all very civilized and inconsequential, a glass of refreshing, slightly sweet lemonade. Only once does Bailey deliver something deeper--in the longest piece, ""The Coracle, Eustace, and the River,"" about one of the last craftsmen in the British Isles to make coracles (an ancient Irish boat resembling ""a huge truncated mushroom""). Eustace Rogers is a splendid old duffer, and Bailey performs a real service by capturing this benevolent man's comments on rabbiting, gardening, and coracle-crafting. Trim, cheerful essays, best read on an alpine meadow or shingle beach.

Pub Date: June 20th, 1986
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux