THE recent obituaries for Carl Bode overlooked his 1974...

salmagundi

February 08, 1993

THE recent obituaries for Carl Bode overlooked his 1974 book, "Highly Irregular" (Southern Illinois University Press). It's a collection of short essays, almost all of which had appeared previously on this page.

Professor Bode was of course not the first person whose Evening Sun writings were later gathered and brought out by a trade publisher. The tradition goes back at least to 1956, when the late Malcolm Moos, a sometime vacation-replacement editorial writer at The Evening Sun, annotated the liveliest of H. L. Mencken's Monday ed page articles (1920 to 1936), as a book entitled "A Carnival of Buncombe."

Then in 1984, "Baltimore Glimpses Revisited" was a chrestomathy of Gilbert Sandler's every-Tuesday look at the people, doings and mores of yesteryear.

Since 1979, the op-ed page has been nurturing nonstaff contributors. One is Stephen Vicchio, whose essays formed the 1987 book, "A Careful Disorder: Chronicles of Life, Love and Laughter."

Two years later, selected news columns by Dan Rodricks came out under the meaningful title, "Mencken Doesn't Live Here Any More: Tales of Baltimore in the 1980s."

1990 brought two more Evening Sun authors. Sara Engram's nationally syndicated column provided the title for "Mortal Matters: When a Loved One Dies." The same year saw the publication of "The Cartoon Art of Mike Lane," a compendium of drawings from this page's award-winning cartoonist.

Clearly, for bookshelf immortality instead of fish-wrapper transience, a newspaper writer needs a column. Given suitable length, one column equals one chapter.

But that brings out an unmentioned aspect of Professor Bode's reflections (which often dealt with life at Maryland's largest university). On the ed page, he never had full columnist status. He asked for the regularity of a weekly or biweekly deadline but the editor had many other pieces to fit in. And until your editor prints the piece or pieces of yours already in his file, why bother writing more?

Carl Bode, undiscouraged, waited his turn -- and used his lack of periodicity for a book title. His joyful appearances in the paper were, indeed, "Highly Irregular."

So there you are -- more than half a dozen books' worth of Evening Sun writing. Locally, what other daily paper can match it?

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