TC L!Title: "Provincetown as a Stage"Author: Leona Rust...

BOOK BRIEFS

August 28, 1994|By J. WYNN ROUSUCK Title: "Hidden Riches" Author: Nora Roberts Publisher: Putnam Length, price: 400 pages, $21.95 | J. WYNN ROUSUCK Title: "Hidden Riches" Author: Nora Roberts Publisher: Putnam Length, price: 400 pages, $21.95,LOS ANGELES TIMES

TC L!Title: "Provincetown as a Stage"

Author: Leona Rust Egan

Publisher: Parnassus Imprints

+!Length, price: 296 pages, $21.95 In her book about the cultural life of Provincetown, Mass., native Baltimorean Leona Rust Egan, a former research psychologist, suggests that the European ambience of this Cape Cod town made it a welcoming place for the artists and writers of Greenwich Village in the early part of the century. She contends that the town had a lasting effect on the American theater by inspiring and fostering the early work of Eugene O'Neill. The playwright spent nine prolific years in Provincetown, during which his first produced play, "Bound East for Cardiff," debuted at the Provincetown Players, and he wrote his first Pulitzer Prize-winner, "Beyond the Horizon."

Ms. Egan includes lots of gossipy details about the bohemian lifestyles of such avant-garde figures as radical journalist John S. Reed, playwright Susan Glaspell and artist Charles Demuth. But her writing is often repetitive, and she gets carried away with historical minutiae. For instance, she reports: "In 1860 Provincetown handled over one-half of the codfish landed on the Cape: 62,181 quintals of the total 107,548. (A quintal was 100 weight, or about 30 salted codfish.)" Nonetheless, O'Neill enthusiasts will find this a distinctive addition to the literature on the playwright and his milieu.

@ Philadelphia antiques dealer Dora Conroy purchases an unusual array of collectibles at an auction. But the items were not supposed to be sold there -- they were filled with smuggled jewels. An error in the shipping department of an import house sent the shipment to the auction house instead of to the West Coast arm of a criminal organization.

When the error is discovered, the smugglers must backtrack to find the missing loot. But Dora has already sold several of the statues, and she, her customers and friends become targets. Aided by Jed Skimmerhorn, a retired Philadelphia policeman who is hiding a secret of his own, Dora must resolve this situation before becoming the next victim.

Billed as a romantic-suspense novel, "Hidden Riches" has believable characters, and the world of antiques and the Philadelphia locale is equally well done. Nora Roberts, who lives in Western Maryland, has devised a clever plot, and the suspense mounts as the net around Dora closes. This is a thoroughly enjoyable nail-biter of a novel.

EILEEN POWER

Title: "Gender & Discourse"

Author: Deborah Tannen

Publisher: Oxford

Length, price: 203 pages, $19.95

Deborah Tannen is the archangel of clarity. Her best-selling book, "You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation," has become part of the way we think about relationships, and has saved countless thousands from the horrors and joys and expenses of marital therapy ("Now, Bob, tell Susie that you love her."). She makes the art of listening less scary and more fascinating than any other sociolinguist or therapist writing today, and as a reward she is cited and leaned on in almost every book on how to live with other people.

"Gender & Discourse" is a funny little book, essentially the background material for "You Just Don't Understand," all the footnotes and references and methodology that Ms. Tannen couldn't sneak into a best seller. This book also gives Ms. Tannen a chance to address the accusation that by exploring the style differences in communication between men and women as "cultural differences," she implied that "men do not dominate women, but only misunderstand them."

In fact, one of her central points was that "women's and men's characteristic styles often put women in a subordinate position in interactions with men." But these claims are not made defensively or at any great length. Ms. Tannen doesn't need to ramble on. She just says what she means.

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