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The Path to Rome.

Tom Brubeck lives in Silver Spring, Md.

A Natural History of the Senses, by Diane Ackerman, (Vintage Books, 1990, $11).

John Ruskin said that to see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion, all in one. Ackerman throws her poet's eyes on the other senses as well. She points out that nothing is more memorable than a smell. "Hit a tripwire of smell," she writes, "and memories explode all at once."

The section about the sense of touch points out that infants deprived of physical contact are stunted physically and psychologically. She calls the sense of hearing the connection with the daily commerce of the world as if we were a root buried beneath the soil Taste is called the social sense. The other senses are enjoyed in all their beauty when one is alone, but food has a powerful social component.

This book thickens the sensory stew of our lives and makes us appreciate what it means to be conscious. It is so thorough and well done, it strikes me as the type of project a writer might work on over the course of a lifetime.

Like many writers, Hilaire Belloc was a walker. At the turn of the century, when he was young, he hiked from the Lorraine region in northeast France to Rome. The Path to Rome (Regnery & Gateway, $9) tells of his pilgrimage. In addition to a hefty 30 miles a day, there are many mental sidetracks on this journey. Belloc's writing is colorful, wild and humorous. The book is a little gem that keeps its gleam.
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Author:Brubeck, Tom
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 19, 1993
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