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Essays on country life and city living, on animals and other penchants, and in one way or another on himself--introduced at course-study length by Geoffrey Wolff. And indeed this group of selections from Hoagland's earlier works, appearing in tandem with African Calliope (above), may give him some literary clout--may, that is, firm up his already considerable cachet. Not that these sprawling, looping pieces are model essays. Some of the personal ruminations, especially the lead-off ""Home Is Two Places,"" seem more like notes for the autobiography he's bound to write some day. But in the next, after nibbling at his identity, he gets off some pointed thoughts on ""Not Being a Jew"" in New York in the Fifties--and why, suddenly, even ""the most Protestantized Ivy League fellows began to teach me chutzpah."" The excerpts from Notes from the Century Before, his diary of a journey into the hinterlands of British Columbia, appear somewhat abrupt and arbitrary here--except, felicitously, as samples of Hoagland's offside attentiveness to people and places. His straight reportage, in fact, is so precise and firm and full that you'll feel lucky if the things that interest him--boxing, tugboats, the circus--also interest you. And the animal pieces, at their best--""The Courage of Turtles,"" ""Howling Back at the Wolves""--bespeak an identification that (as he writes about that wolf howl) ""goes right to one's roots."" Our favorite, though, is a hybrid, ""Americana, Etc.,"" that's half reflection on crowds, half the account of a north Vermont county fair--part a paean to oneness and separateness, part a celebration of concreteness. A valuable man, especially when he has a subject to keep his observations taut.

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 1979
Publisher: Random House