Wasp Tale Bears Sting Of Satire

June 03, 1994|By Jody Roesler | Jody Roesler,Special to The Sun

Wallace Arthur Stanley Perk is what his initials spell out.

Stan, as he is called, is the main character of "Proud As a WASP," a new book by Armiger resident Ike Burroughs.

Written as satire, the book follows the outspoken Stan, a hard working, proud and stubborn white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, through his adventures in love and life after World War II.

The book, published by Vantage Press in New York, was released on May 17.

Throughout the story, Stan takes pot-shots at Roman Catholics, Irish, senior citizens and veterans. He's proud that his forefathers founded the country and angry that other groups get recognized more often.

WASPs don't have any street festivals, don't get any special days and aren't known for any distinctive foods. In short, they often blend into the woodwork.

"I wrote facetiously about . . . all the things that I am," says Mr. Burroughs. "To form a true opinion, you have to read the book all the way through. It has an ending that will pacify people."

He said he wrote the book about WASPs because they're "not really an ethnic group and have been ignored as a group by the government and the media."

Although Mr. Burroughs doesn't say that he wants to make people angry, he does say, "If people are told not to read it, maybe they'll buy it and like it."

"People ask me if it is an autobiography," the 73 year old says. "But I got ideas from my experiences and things I've seen."

One thing he wrote and knows about is neurofibromatosis, the same disease that the elephant man, Joseph Merrick, died from.

Like one of Stan's friends, Mr. Burroughs' first wife, Anne, died of the disease in 1986. Diagnosed in the early 1960s, she became seriously ill in 1977.

Mr. Burroughs had been working for the U.S. Printing Office for 18 years and took advantage of an early retirement program so he could stay home with his wife.

"I worked from '77 to '86 as a full-time nurse because we couldn't afford one," he says.

His money problem was caused by the savings and loan crisis. "We had our money in Old Court [Savings & Loan], and in '85 Jeffrey Levitt took it all," he says. The bank collapsed in 1985 and Levitt, its president, was sent to prison.

Since most of his time was spent taking care of Anne, he didn't have time to clean, so he asked his church, Brooklyn Heights United Methodist, to help out. They sent Fran Krebs.

After Anne died, "I started dating Fran, and married her in January of '87," Mr. Burroughs says. "When she asked why I married her, I told her it was so I wouldn't have to pay for housecleaning -- tongue in cheek of course."

Part of his style has always been tongue in cheek. He wrote humor and poetry for his high school paper in Pleasantville, N.J.

"I was the only member of my family to graduate from high school," says Mr. Burroughs. "We grew up on a farm and my mother's idea of life was to get an education until 12 or 13 and then work on the farm."

At 19, he left New Jersey for Baltimore and a job making river dredges. "I worked for eight or nine months then did odd jobs for a while. I was 19 and always looking for something bigger and better."

Once he realized that he was going to be drafted, in 1942, he decided to enlist. "They raised the pay from $21 a week to $50," he says. "I could do just as well there so I figured I may as well do it."

He worked as a control tower operator in the Army Air Corps, now the Air Force. He wrote to Anne, "an Italian girl from Baltimore," while stationed in Australia, New Guinea and the Philippines.

He came home to Baltimore on Christmas Eve 1945.

"My mother was a Pentecostal who told me to stay away from Roman Catholics," Mr. Burroughs says. "So in April of '46, I married one."

Mr. Burroughs will have a book-signing party Sunday at VFW Post 160. The event, which will run concurrently with a flea market, will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The newly published author says if Stan is a hit, he has ideas to continue the saga, perhaps sending his hero to Washington, where he will fail "because he's a WASP without a sting."

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