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NONFICTION : I REMEMBER <i> by Dan Rather with Peter Wyden (Little Brown: $19.95; 272 pp.).</i>

While Peter Jennings works hard to cultivate a cool aristocratic air--wryly and suavely winking at life like a good postmodernist--Dan Rather is appealing because he seems to be stuck in life’s trenches with the rest of us: hewn, provincial enough to be affected by worldly events and not above exhorting us, as he did for a while in signing off the nightly news, to have “courage!” Rather didn’t realize this at first, seeking out any number of acting coaches when he took over from Cronkite. But with this autobiography he seems to have embraced the role. At times “I Remember” seems an overly self-conscious attempt to correct the superstar image he purveyed in an earlier book, “The Camera Never Blinks”: There’s even a recipe for Grandma Page’s vinegar pie. But more often Rather’s down-home persona seems genuine: He appears to derive great strength from Grandma Page’s wisdom about pressing on despite hardship (“The stronger the breeze, the stronger the trees”) and he goes to great lengths to distance himself from his current ethos of Manhattan, which, he writes, accounts for “more than its share” of “highbrow zombies who freeze into stoicism when their hearts are hit hard.”


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