In a book review in Sunday's Sun, author Stephen Vicchio...


July 14, 1991|By TIM WARREN THE ROCK. Peter Parnall. Macmillan. 32 pages. $14.95.

In a book review in Sunday's Sun, author Stephen Vicchio was incorrectly identified as a professor of philosophy at Loyola College. In fact, he teaches at the College of Notre Dame.




Stephen Vicchio.

Wakefield Editions/Christian Classics.

245 pages. $17.95 (paperback).


There's a trick to writing a good general-interest newspaper column or op-ed piece. In 700 to 800 words you must decide

right away what you're writing about, and then develop that theme with just the right mix of profundity and breeziness before exiting.

Somehow, though, Stephen Vicchio manages to write clearly, intelligently, humorously and, above all, consistently. A professor philosophy at Loyola College, Dr. Vicchio writes regular columns for The Sun, The Evening Sun and The Maryland Poetry Review, as well as commentary for WJHU-FM. In "Ordinary Mysteries," a collection of recent columns and pieces, one is struck by the wide range of topics he addresses: childhood and adolescent reminiscences, religion, politics, love, nature, teaching. His approach, he writes, "is frequently that of a bemused fly on the wall or a magnifying glass with a mind of its own."

Thus, he manages a tone that, coming from an academic, is blessedly free from self-importance. There's a wonderful piece on a round-trip bus trip from Baltimore to Tulsa, Okla., yet Dr. Vicchio can write convincingly about serious topics, as manifested in a piece on Klaus Barbie. Such agile shifting of gears makes "Ordinary Mysteries" a fine and thoughtful collection. The natural world that artist Peter Parnall brings to life will inspire even the youngest readers to enjoy and appreciate the simple things around them. In this book, it is a rock -- the particular rock where the young boy sits to watch Deer walk through the woods for his evening drink.

With the minimum of lines to clutter the scene, a few brush strokes in soft colors of green and gold and blue, and just the FTC right descriptive words, Mr. Parnell creates a world for the curious and the imaginative. Animals, insects and plants live and grow here, and the young boy joins them in a long procession of human beings who have come through the centuries to think and observe at the rock.

In other books about birds, cats and snakes, and three Caldecott Honor titles -- "The Desert Is Theirs," "Hawk, I'm Your Brother" and "The Way to Start a Day," all with text by Byrd Baylor -- Mr. Parnall has created beautiful and informative books that exceed

the boundaries of hearts and minds.



Mickey Rooney.


374 pages. $22.50.

Former child star Mickey Rooney dedicates his book to his wife, but you have to ask, "Which one?" The eight-times-married actor tells some tales that are interchangeable with those of other star biographies, and others worth telling. His first wife, actress Ava Gardner (later to wed Frank Sinatra), started his marriage marathon. As part of the MGM stable of young stars that included Jackie Cooper, Freddie Bartholomew, Deanna Durbin, Gloria De Haven and Judy Garland, Mr. Rooney is most famous for his starring role in the Andy Hardy series, for starring in "National Velvet" with Elizabeth Taylor and for his Oscar nomination for "The Black Stallion." He won the Golden Globe award for "Bill" in 1981, and early on performed in many musical comedies.

Mr. Rooney states -- erroneously, we think -- that Mickey Mouse was named after him; also subject to question is that he provided JFK with starlets' phone numbers between the president's trysts with Marilyn Monroe. He also claims gangster Al Capone as one of his fans. Mr. Rooney, "always oversexed," claims that his lifelong friendship with Garland was platonic -- "there was no sexual chemistry" -- and when she died of an overdose, his grief was deep and genuine. The last 30 pages of the book are a listing of Rooney's work, no small accomplishment.


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