Picks and Pans Review: The Old Patagonian Express

updated 10/29/1979 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/29/1979 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Paul Theroux

"It was a steam train...a kind of demented samovar on wheels, with iron patches on its boiler and leaking pipes on its underside and dribbling valves and metal elbows that shot jets of vapor sideways. It was fueled by oil, so it did not belch black smoke, but it had bronchial trouble, respirating in chokes and gasps on the grades and wheezing oddly down the slopes when it seemed out of control." For admirers of The Great Railway Bazaar, Theroux offers this sequel, which proves a pleasant way to adventure through polished, unobtrusive prose. Theroux begins this book in Boston on the Lake Shore Limited, chugs through an Illinois snowstorm and ends on the train of the title in remote Latin America. The high point is a visit with Argentina's towering genius, novelist Jorge Luis Borges. It is splendid to experience such a man, even second-hand. (Houghton Mifflin, $11.95)

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