Picks and Pans Review: Zephyr

updated 07/11/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/11/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Henry Kisor

If the lounge car is too crowded to find a seal, travelers might just want lo pick up Zephyr and watch the scenery pass within its pages. Henry Kisor, editor and literary columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, has written a delightful book that lies somewhere between Paul Theroux and Garrison Keillor in his celebration of American life from the vantage of the iron rails.

He has chosen his route well. Perhaps the most beloved train trip in America, the California Zephyr carries more than 70,000 passengers each month between Chicago and California. Zephyr is not only a window seal to the magnificent mountain and desert vistas of the West but il is also filled with historical anecdotes and personal stories, making il as much about people as it is about places.

While train travel today may be less glamorous than it once was, Kisor writes with respect for the professionalism and the pride of Amtrak employees. The organization may seem at times an unwieldy impersonal bureacracy, but people like-chef John Davis—who brings his private Cajun mix for catfish with him each trip—give it a delightfully human face, which Kisor renders well.

Rail fans or just lovers of Americana should consider themselves lucky to sit with Kisor listening to his tales while watching the countryside roll by. (Times Books, $24)

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