Common sense on Paine

BOOKS & AUTHORS

November 28, 1993|By James H. Bready

That Tom Paine, he's an atheist, cried the mossbacks of his own century. And even those who admired the author of "Common Sense" and "The Rights of Man" often thought of him as a secularist, wrapped up in human dignity, equal rights, freedom of belief, civic decency, reason.

But the English-born anti-monarchist who helped ignite the American and French revolutions had God in his thoughts too. He held that "God literally permeate[s] the universe," Jack Fruchtman Jr. points out in his thought-provoking new book, "Thomas Paine and the Religion of Nature" (Johns Hopkins University Press, $32.50).

Study nature, reflect God's creativity, improve the world about you -- this was Paine, according to this stimulating analysis by Dr. Fruchtman, a Towson State University political scientist.

*

I say Constellation, you say Constitution, let's call the whole thing off -- well, let's put our fingers in our ears. The latest broadside, in the matter of which should call itself the oldest U.S. Navy ship, is from a new book about the latter: "Old Ironsides: The Rise, Decline and Resurrection of the U.S.S. Constitution" (International Marine Books, $24.95). The author, Thomas C. Gillmer, is a non-Bostonian; an Annapolitan, rather, who has taught at the Naval Academy, written textbooks on marine architecture, designed ships (Pride I, Pride II).

And . . . he sinks the Constellation. In its present, 1855 version, "a new ship."

*

Geoffrey W. Fielding, writer, collector and gardener, is the new president of the Baltimore Bibliophiles, succeeding Drusilla Jones. Henry B. Wilson is recording secretary; Binnie Syril Braunstein, corresponding secretary; Joseph Jensen, treasurer.

Fifteen strong and headed by Gordon Pfeiffer, president, the Delaware Bibliophiles came from Wilmington to attend the Baltimore Bibliophiles' recent annual meeting. Marty Ballinger of Georgetown University spoke on "Collecting Publishers' Bindings."

*

Harrison E. Livingstone, who hit the New York Times best-seller list with both his earlier Kennedy/Dallas books, "High Treason" and "High Treason II," marked the anniversary of Nov. 22, 1963, with yet a third book. "Killing the Truth: Deceit and Deception in the JFK Case" (Carroll & Graf, 752 pages, $27.95) is out in a first edition of 50,000 copies.

Presenting "sensational new evidence," he concentrates again on "fraud and misrepresentation" in the autopsy reports and analyses.

*

The menhaden are ocean-bound; out of the north, loons wing down; eels and elvers, in export demand, lure commercial fishermen; diatoms multiply even as other plankton forms wane; xTC white perch are now the angler's hope; ducks and raccoons scoop up clams and mussels. Such is November in "Chesapeake Almanac: Following the Bay Through the Seasons" (Tidewater Publishers, paper, $14.95), by John Page Williams Jr. of Arnold and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. A teaching naturalist, Mr. Williams wrote earlier versions in his Chesapeake Bay magazine column.

Oysters and Eastern Shore watermen -- the boat that has brought them together is the "drudge," the bateau, the log canoe, latterly the skipjack. The times have been hard on all three: bivalves, tongers and scrapers, workboats -- 1900's fleet of several hundred may, come 2000, be down to a dozen. Thanks to Pat Vojtech's "Chesapeake Bay Skipjacks" (Tidewater Publishers, $29.95), at least the memory will linger. Her research, her interviews with working and retired watermen and her photographs defy erosion.

*

Calendar: 500-plus Christmas books collected by the late Sen. George L. Radcliffe go up for auction, Dec. 6 at 6:30 p.m. at the Holiday Inn, 1100 Cromwell Bridge Road. Also in this periodic Baltimore Book Co. sale: the first printed map (DeBry, 1590) to use the name Chesapeake Bay (estimate, $3,000-$4,000). . . . Christmas party: Baltimore Writers' Alliance, Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m., Elkridge Estates clubroom. . . . Holiday party: Maryland Romance Writers, Dec. 8 at 7:30 p.m., Miller Branch, Howard County Public Library.

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