New Photos Revisit 'Blue Highways'; NONFICTION - BOOKS

Article excerpt

Devotees of William Least Heat-Moon's "Blue Highways," which chronicled his circumnavigation of America by its less-trafficked back roads, have long pestered the author about a sequel.

Heat-Moon has thwarted those desires by striking off in new directions instead - travels richly detailed in "PrairyErth," "River- Horse" and "Roads to Quoz" - but photographer Edgar I. Ailor III offers at least partial fulfillment of readers' wishes with "Blue Highways Revisited."

Ailor, with an occasional assist by his son, retraces the route of Heat-Moon's 13,889-mile journey of 1978. Primarily recording the roads, vistas and still-extant structures that Heat-Moon encountered, Ailor also finds a dozen or so of the folks whose stories made up the vital heart of "Blue Highways."

The book allows them to reflect on the effect that Heat-Moon's work had on their lives - not always welcome - and provides a brief update on what's occurred over the intervening years.

As a book of photography, "Blue Highways Revisited" is highly professional but rarely arresting. But because Ailor's artfully composed images of wild and rural America so closely mirror Heat- Moon's descriptions, they will resonate strongly for those already enchanted by the original text.

Paradoxically, the most eloquent photographs are Heat-Moon's own black-and-white portraits from "Blue Highways," which are reproduced with proper care. …

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