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FOR CRONKITE, IT'S NOT ALL IN THE JOURNEY

Cronkite Around America
By Walter Cronkite
Norton
211 pages; $23.95

...

Walter Cronkite, who earned the respect of millions in his 20-year stint as anchor at CBS, disappoints me in his latest writing effort about his sailing exploits. "Around America: A Tour of Our Magnificent Coastline," is a travelogue that lacks the personal touch. One gets the feeling in reading this, the fourth volume on his beloved sailing ventures, that he was merely fulfilling a writing contract and approaching it without enthusiasm.

As a great admirer of this most-respected voice in electronic journalism, I was anticipating a fascinating journey with Cronkite on his 60-foot yacht, Wyantje, as he sailed the coastlines of the Northeast, the Southeast, the Gulf Coast and the West Coast.

Sadly, Cronkite almost totally separates himself from the trip, reciting faithfully the names of the places he visits but never really telling us of his feelings about the difficulties he encounters or any of the emotions he experiences.

Cronkite does provide us with a good deal of historic background on the places he visits, but only too rarely does he entertain or enlighten us. The gifted storyteller of the past seems to have virtually divorced himself from that role.

Fortunately, Cronkite has not lost his touch with words. One can imagine that he is reading to us with each sentence presented in the customary pleasing and unusual cadence we heard so often night after night, year after year. Too infrequently, however, do we come across the simple but meaningful sentences that we have come to expect from Cronkite.

It would have been nice to get more -- such as his description of Manhattan's southern tip: "The great steel and concrete and glass spires tower above you, fighting for space as they reach for the heavens."

The reader waits in vain for information that would add to an appreciation of the extensive sailing ventures Cronkite details. How many people were in his crew? How experienced were they? What roles did they play, and what role did the author himself fill? How many hours or days did it take to sail from one place to another? What were the dining arrangements on these trips? How many nights did they overnight on land, on the open seas?

These and a host of other tidbits of information are not yielded up by Cronkite, adding to the barren nature of his recitation. This small volume by a most-respected journalist is a major disappointment. It can be recommended only to avid sailors who might want to someday follow his path.

Murray B. Light is former editor and senior vice president of The Buffalo News.

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