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A safe harbor

For many of us, or for me at least, traveling in a boat coursing between two very visible riverbanks has always been a whole lot more appealing than swaying in a ship above a bottomless sea, a dot in a 360-degree shoreless horizon.

Water, water everywhere and not a clump of dirt. Until my feet are webbed, I don't think I'll ever be at ease out of sight of land.

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But I'll read a book about it.

Today's book section has a nautical theme. Three tales of adventure: open ocean, meandering river, and rocky coastline. The pages heave readers to points unknown, places and states of mind seldom seen.

One's armchair becomes the bridge on the good ship Imagination where in solitude, it's possible to take command of an armada of emotions. A book's safe harbor is always the same: refuge from storms on the heart's horizon.

"Moby Dick," by Herman Melville, is a blue-water novel. Most still agree it is the great American novel. Pure sea-motion, it leaves land, and women, far behind. The human psyche within its pages exists without so much as a nod that women read by the same whale-oil light that men did. This has been no small concern to feminist critics.

"Ahab's Wife," by Sena Jeter Naslund (see review page 14), steers straight into the masculine headwinds of the hunt for the great white whale. Her book is much more than an ideological redress of the absence of women.

I used to think floating a river in Montana was as good as it gets on our blue-water planet. But of late, canoeing on small lakes and hidden ponds has made for the best voyage.

A good book sails on a much wider sea.

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(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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