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Finding the Trap Door

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In an impressive broadloom of subjects, Hochschild (Half the Way Home) offers 21 of his magazine-length reports on the world. Writer for Ramparts, co-founder of Mother Jones, he follows a passion for people likewise aflame for the detoured way of life for an intense political or a social justice. His wonderful lead profile of Jan Yoors, a Gypsy in New York, typifies Hochschild's affinity for the intriguing oblique. He writes trenchantly on Ernest Hemingway, Malcolm Lowry and Walter R. Brooks who wrote about Freddy the Pig for children. Of his uncle Boris Vasilievich Sergievski, captain in the Imperial Russian Air Force and later test pilot for Pam Am, he writes, "He was a Tom Jones parachuted by accident into a Henry James novel." In "From Hitler to Human Rights," his depiction of Goebbels-like Floyd Cochran of the racist Aryan Nation becomes a stunning portrayal of the power of the human spirit for a sea change in values. He's no less incisive when the subject is a place. Clearly fascinated by the world beyond himself, Hochschild extracts the essences of Russia, El Salvador, South Africa, Senegal, Colombia and Mississippi 30 years after Freedom Summer. The single deep immersion into his own background ("World on a Hilltop"), about his four girl-less, money-heavy prep-school years at Pomfret in Connecticut, leads him to realize "how bizarre and unjust is the entire world of prep schools." Abruptly he confesses his addiction to reading battle books, defending himself with "no study has shown that we lovers of war books are more likely to go out and start wars." Despite the mandatory chapter on John F. Kennedy and "Camelotry," readers will find this wide-ranging, well-crafted collection an enthralling excursion around the world and into the heart. (June)

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