by Alec Wilkinson
Knopf; 191 pages; $20
Reading one of the New Yorker's long reportorial pieces is something like watching an up-country mason who knows his stuff build an unmortared stone wall. Progress is slow but nearly always interesting; and the result, gray and rough-textured, following the dips and rises of the ground at hand, is satisfying but not showy. Observing such deliberate construction can be marvelously soothing, as when Alec Wilkinson, one of the magazine's younger fact writers, lays down a long list of house names toward the beginning of an article on the Tlingit-speaking Native Americans of...