A sweeping view of a huge country that few Americans know well. Page (Law/Georgetown Univ.; Peron, 1983), an uncommonly well-traveled avocational Latin Americanist, knows his stuff. One of ""a long line of foreigners who have visited or lived in Brazil, have been seduced by the land and its people, and who have attempted to set down their impressions and reflections for the benefit of other non-Brazilians,"" he draws on personal experience and a mountain of published literature to explode some stereotypes and reinforce others. Brazilians are temperamentally anarchic, he writes, but they get things done; easygoing and fun-loving, they are also increasingly violent; and they ""rely much more on improvisation and spontaneity than on sustained effort proceeding from careful planning and preparation."" Brazil's ethos, Page observes, encompasses Carmen Miranda, the murderers of Chico Mendes, a host of military dictators, poor practitioners of the African umbanda religion, and fantastically wealthy industrialists, all of whom together exemplify the stark contrast between the country's haves and have-nots -- and yet remain unmistakably and proudly Brazilian. Page gets into odd corners of the country that seldom see print, including the arid serto of the northeast, which ""contains the largest concentration of wretchedness, both rural and urban, to be found in the Western hemisphere."" He portrays men and women whose moment of fame in the world spotlight has ended badly, most notably Fernando Ramos da Silva, 12-year-old star of the movie Pixote, gunned down by the police in a botched burglary seven years after achieving international fame. This is hardly the Brazil of Varig travel posters, nor is it a true insider's view (such as Jonathan Raban's for the English and Luigi Barzini's for the Italians), but Page depicts a fascinating land for which he clearly feels much love.