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Books: Images of America

Gallery owner James Danziger has pulled off an impressive feat--a comprehensive survey of 20th-century photography in the United States. American Photographs: 1900/2000 (Assouline, $90) contains iconic shots that have entered our collective unconscious--Joe Rosenthal's Raising the Flag on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima; Marilyn Monroe by Frank Powolny--as well as lesser-known works that celebrate daily life in the last 100 years, such as the Walker Evans portrait of commuters on New York's Seventh Avenue subway, and George Tice's eerie nighttime view of a Mobil station in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

That most American of events--the rodeo--is rediscovered in a new book by photojournalist and former fashion editor Lisa Eisner. Published by Greybull Press, Rodeo Girl ($50) reveals Wyoming-born Eisner's fascination with the pageantry and glamour of the women at the festival: rodeo queens in tiaras, sequin-clad runners-up, uniformed band members, baton twirlers, and decked-out spectators. Male rodeo fixtures--riders, clowns, dancers, and judges--are also represented. Eisner zeroes in on the beauty, color, and excitement of the proceedings; a sense of anticipation is palpable in her vivid images.

Our nation's love of the open road was galvanized by the arrival of the trailer, a method of transportation that promised the ultimate freedom: to travel anywhere without sacrificing the comforts of home. Bryan Burkhart and David Hunt depict the evolution of the aerodynamic lifestyle in Airstream: The History of the Land Yacht (Chronicle, $20). From its humble beginnings in the 1920's, the Airstream would emerge an ingeniously outfitted, sleek aluminum bullet that could travel around the world. As Airstream founder Wally Byam once said, "Adventure is where you find it--any place, every place, except at home in the rocking chair."

"I was an outsider before I was a traveler; I was a traveler before I was a writer; I think one led to the other. I don't think I was ever a scholar or a student in the formal sense. When I mentioned this notion of being a stranger to my friend Oliver Sacks, he said, 'In the Kabala the first act in the creation of the universe is exile.' That makes sense to me.

"When I went to Africa, a young man and unpublished, I became a mzungu, or white man, but the Chichewa word also implies a spirit, a ghost figure, almost a goblin, a being so marginal as to be barely human. I did not find it at all hard to accept this definition; I had always felt fairly marginal, with something to prove. So, speaking about myself as a traveler is the most logical way of speaking about myself as a writer."

--excerpted from Fresh Air Fiend, Paul Theroux's latest collection of essays (Houghton Mifflin, $27)

Just out: contributing editor Michael Gross's My Generation: Fifty Years of Sex, Drugs, Rock, Revolution, Glamour, Greed, Valor, Faith, and Silicon Chips (Cliff Street Books, $25). Gross's most recent piece for T&Lwas about the Côte d'Azur in the off-season (November 1999).

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