A Pacific Passage
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Buckley's third volume of experiences al sea (following Airborne and Atlantic High) and the fluffiest of the three, full of charm and vacancy. His latest voyage finds WFB trading the Atlantic for the deep, sweet peace of Pacific sunsets. He sets forth on a 4500-mile crossing from Honolulu to New Guinea, with stops along the way at various Edens. He might have started from California, but he couldn't spare the two weeks extra since the Sealestial was not his own yacht and had to be delivered on time. The paradisal voyage has its built-in limitations, starting with the captain's personal messiness: WFB apparently drops wet shorts anywhere underfoot and lets other clothes fall and marinate where they will. He is accompanied by his son Christopher, the writer-Esquire editor, and Richard Clurman, the chain-smoking Time journalist, among others, all of whom are expected to keep private logs that they will later hand over to WFB for distillation. What results, thus, is a book that is all distraetion and padding, with very little straight-ahead narration, Earlier voyages are cannibalized; newspaper articles reprinted whole; David Niven's taped autobiographics are quoted at length. We leap from log to log, and lectures on navigation abound that will interest only fellow yachtsmen. WFB comments that he rarely reads books by those antisocial types who may undertake solo voyages. This snobbery would of course exclude one-legged Tristan Jones' The Improbably Voyage (p. 533), a work of great narrative brio and muscularity, especially when set beside this example of WFB's slack muscles. WFB's voyage is a consciously Grand High Yuppie performance, featuring the usual overwhelming inventory of wines (32 cases at a cost of $2,525.74), beers (50 cases), evening cigars, GooGoo candy bars, Swedish crackers and other delectables, plus a large inventory of classical and jazz cassettes and evening movies for the whole voyage. Even so, at one point, Clurman tells WFB that voyages aren't much fun and are much better to tell about than to experience. Surprisingly, WFB agrees. What with excerpts in The New Yorker and an earlier run-through in Life, and with 200 ravishing color photographs, this coffeetable enricher will likely outstrip its highly successful forebears. What drama appears herein stems mainly from the logs quoted, which show naked nerves.
Pub Date: May 27th, 1987
ISBN: 0316114480
Page count: 344pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1987


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