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Ten easy-going, lightly engaging sketches of recent expeditions--mostly involving fishing or horse-racing--from the author of Laughing in the Hills (1980), that far more ambitious and somber racetrack journal. In the book's first three pieces, Barich is living in northern California: he goes fishing for steelhead locally, then on a trip to Oregon with a noisy singing guide and a taciturn mentor/nemesis (""With steelhead you don't play. . . . You pray""); he also offers some reportage from Washington's upper Skagit River, where the pros and cons of dams (and James Delmage Ross' 1920s vision of a ""Hydro Paradise"") are the main concern; plus--a brief account of up-and-down betting experiences at Golden Gate Fields. Then, moving to his native East Coast, Barich has a gentle family reunion (with the pursuit of weakfish at its center), side-tripping to Saratoga for a short evocation of the horse-auction business. But the remaining sections arise from Barich's half-year in Europe. Living with his wife in half-gentrified north London, he samples all the pubs in the neighborhood--eventually settling on The Fountain (where ""the lovely insistence of family life kept intruding upon the solitary world of the drinker"") and befriending a young squatter-couple there; he also, of course, samples the local racetracks, with mini-histories of bookmaking and steeplechasing and commentary on the food at Kempton Park. (""This was a pork pie that could have been flung from a catapult at the Visigoths."") And finally, before returning home for some more north California fishing, there's a sojourn in Tuscany--renting a villa, watching Italian TV, seeing things differently (""The longer we lived in Arcetri, the more oppressive Florence began to seem""). . . and, inevitably, finding history and contentment at a nearby track. (""In spite of the mediocre racing, I enjoyed myself, because Cascine was one of the few spots where I could be sure to escape the tourists."") Pleasant, occassionally amusing or sentimental short-takes--primarily for Barich's fellow track-and-stream enthusiasts, but dotted with more broadly appealing bits of information and charm.

Pub Date: Jan. 11th, 1983
Publisher: Viking