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A tapestry of travels

RUNNING AFTER ANTELOPE

By Scott Carrier

Counterpoint, $22

Reviewed by JOHN FREEMAN

For the past 18 years, National Public Radio producer Scott Carrier has traveled the American West as well as some of the world's most exotic locales reporting the blighted lives of the dispossessed, listening to the historically silenced. In his first book, Running After Antelope, he weaves the best of his pieces into a quirky tapestry of memoir and travelogue.

Running After Antelope pays tribute to its author's yen for the authentic, which he glimpses on trips hitch-hiking across country with $9 in his pocket or during state-sponsored interviews with schizophrenics in Utah. It's easy to see why Carrier has become essential to "This American Life"; he has a knack for uncovering the weird underbelly of American culture from carpenters who wield Jesus like a hammer to Serbian truck drivers who moonlight as gallery owners. In his first overseas reporting assignments, Carrier explores Cambodia and Kashmir, two countries convulsed in brutal conflicts, where he risks his life to talk to tea farmers.

In the opening and closing essays, Carrier strikes the metaphor for the itinerant life he's scratched out for himself: pursuing antelope. The task proves difficult: "We chase them over a little hill, and on the other side the three have become eight . . . they split into three groups, each going in a different direction.

"We chase antelope off and on for two days, but basically, they just ditch us every time."

While he may never corral his antelope, Carrier always nails his story, a fact that this book attests to brilliantly.

John Freeman is a writer who lives in New York City.

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