Those Years: Recollections Of A Baltimore Newspaperman. R...


January 13, 1991|By DIANE SCHARPER THE MOST WONDERFUL DOLL IN THE WORLD. Phyllis McGinley; illustrated by Helen Stone. Scholastic Hardcover. 64 pages. $10.95.

THOSE YEARS: RECOLLECTIONS OF A BALTIMORE NEWSPAPERMAN. R. H. Gardner. Sunspot Books/Galileo Press. 233 pages. $14.95 (paperback). When R. H. Gardner began working for The Sun in 1951, he was sent to investigate an abandoned car in Hampden. He passed a house where victims had died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Looking through the door, he saw firemen wearing gas masks -- the odor of decomposition was overpowering. Before him were two nude bodies. Calling in his report, Mr. Gardner spoke to the rewrite man, future Pulitzer Prize-winner Russell Baker. "Describe," Mr. Baker said, "the nakedness of those bodies."

As he explains in this delightful memoir, Mr. Gardner described almost everything -- from the man cleaning the Washington Monument to the moment of catharsis in classical tragedy. Working 33 years as a reporter, feature writer and drama critic for The Sun, he became friends with professionals in education and the arts; he witnessed the opening of Center Stage and the Morris Mechanic; his critical insights promoted the renaissance of Baltimore theater. Ultimately, he had a "love affair with Baltimore." This book remembers that affair.

The most wonderful doll in the world is Angela -- but not really. When Angela is lost, Dulcy is free to imagine her, and that is a very enjoyable pastime, as Angela's beauty, elegance and talent grow with each passing day. By the time the real Angela is rediscovered, the pretend Angela could skate and talk and wave her hands. How could any other doll compete with that vision? Dulcy faces the line between truth and imagination -- and learns to enjoy them both.

Originally published in 1950 with illustrations that won the artist a Caldecott Honor Medal, this reissue is still a winner. The text still matters. Dulcy teaches herself, without preaching, something today's readers will appreciate as much as their parents did.

Phyllis McGinley won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 for "Times Three: Selected Verse From Three Decades," but it is for this book and her humorous poetry that young people will remember her.



Parker Antin with Phyllis Wachob Weiss. Donald I. Fine. 291 pages. $21.95. In an eerie region of Western Nepal, many hazards confront the trekker: lawless police, hostile villagers willing to kill for a pair of sneakers, roving Tibetan bandits and widespread meningitis. The region's very name -- Dolpo -- somehow conveys its otherworldly character. In 1984, no foreigners were allowed in this shimmering cathedral of the snowy Himalaya north of towering Dhaulagiri.

But Parker Antin, tired of his stateside job as a biomedical researcher, tested himself with a two-month trek through "one of the most remote inhabited regions on the planet [where] there are no conquerors, only survivors." "Himalayan Odyssey" is the travel-book equivalent of a well-crafted thriller, a page-turner in which the fate of Mr. Antin and his guide and porters always hangs in the balance. Near a wild river they are "lost, without food, a raging snowstorm" around them on a trackless mountainside. A sharp-eyed porter yells as he notices "a dim shape" -- a chorten, or burial mound, signifying a human presence. But when the desperate group stumbles into the village of Sangdak, all doors are swiftly slammed.

Mr. Antin overcomes this rebuff, as well as "numbing weariness," landslides, perilous bridges over chasms and near-starvation. Though lacking the wit of Eric Newby's mountaineering classic, "A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush," "Odyssey" delivers both drama and a portrait of one of the world's last wild places.


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