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NONFICTION

CRUISING STATE: Growing Up In Southern California by Christopher Buckley. (Nevada: $19.95; 224 pp.) Reading Christopher Buckley can be like listening to your teen-age son talking on the phone downstairs. One thought leads easily to another, his sentences are sunny, breezy. “We rode along,” he writes of his childhood in Santa Barbara (“for the newly wed and nearly dead”) in the fifties and sixties, “in the wonderful unquestioned and unqualified emblems of ourselves. To us it seemed an age that would never end, for wouldn’t cars always be at the heart of things in California? Gas was cheap and the living was easy. Cruising was all means and no end. We were going nowhere fast, and that was fine with us.” The cars and the waves and the baseball gloves are poignant the way instamatic photos are poignant, but they do not graduate to metaphor, they seem stuck there between two wars, and Buckley cannot seem to drag these memories, the feeling of things, into his adult life. Not that he doesn’t try, and not that they aren’t well-drawn memories, it’s just something that happens when there’s more nostalgia than consistency or rootedness in a life. Time is stopped, in its parallell universe, its twilight zone. “It must have been clear to me even then,” writes Buckley, “that I would be reaching back for that moment, always just out of reach, reaching up to it in all the years to come, like the sun-rich fruit of the loquat on the one tree in the schoolyard.”


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