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For every taste and budget, a paperback

Dateline America, by Charles Kuralt. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. 224 pp. $7.95.

This volume records some of Kuralt's journeys into forgotten pockets of the United States. Unfortunately, it doesn't adequately reflect Kuralt's talent for chronicling the unusual, the startling. Perhaps it's because the stories are taken from his radio broadcasts, not his television pieces; they are too brief, and leave the reader often tantalized, rarely satisfied. The pictures that accompany the text are likewise too few, too small, and uneven in quality.

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There is, though, much worth pondering. We learn, for example, that the diversity and character of America haven't succumbed to the tide of look-alike motels, shopping plazas, and suburbs. It's nice to know that there still are commercial sailboats left -- the skipjack fleet of oyster boats on Chesapeake Bay.

Most of all, it's good to know about the special places, people, and traditions Kuralt manages to find. It's good to know they are there, even if we are only vicarious travelers.

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