Reference Points

July 06, 2008|By Chicago Tribune

Ganga: A Journey Down the Ganges River, Island Press, $25.95

Not since Eric Newby made his own way Slowly Down the Ganges (1966) has a writer made India's great river and its goddess the subject of such a riveting travelogue. While Newby loaded his river journey with irony and understatement, journalist and National Public Radio commentator Julian Crandall Hollick takes a more serious, but ultimately more wondrous, approach. As the Ganges sweeps down from its source in the high Himalayas and flows across India, it is worshiped, pillaged, poisoned, siphoned off and diverted, until, in Hollick's vivid phrase, it "staggers exhausted into the Bay of Bengal." The river Hollick follows is both dying and eternal, exploited yet sacred. For visitors making their own way down the Ganges, this book is the ideal fellow passenger.

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