Life's meaning, gags, the shore Books of the Region

September 13, 1998|By James H. Bready | James H. Bready,Sun staff

That fixture, the public debate, is moribund; its imperfect replacement appears to be the news conference - a single figure tossing out remarks to a panel of interviewers, each side now baiting, now soft-soaping, the other.

Such is the device that John Irwin, of Johns Hopkins' Writing Seminars, employs in his long narrative poem, "Just Let Me Say This About That" (Overlook. 124 pages. $22.95). Irwin, a veteran editor and critic, uses the pen name John Bricuth.

Here, God, the President, everyone's father - or all three at once; there, Bird, Fox and Fish, alleged journalists. Each is allowed touches of personality, but the game, in three-line stanzas, much everyday language and intermittent flashes of brilliance, is thought.

It soon boils down (or up) to: what is the value, the meaning, of life? God utters most of the aphorisms and metaphors: " ... those who seek a meaning out of life / Who need a reason just to make it through / Are those for whom no reason will quite do." But counterthrust occurs.

For 35 years, many of them in special education, E.S. DelRosario taught in the public schools - of her native Philippines, then of Baltimore County. Now looking back, she recalls occasions, joys, difficulties, the lessons from a full life. These scattered lookbacks are effectively presented in "For Teaching Is Living: It's Liking What You Do That Matters" (American Literary Press. 117 pages. $10.95 softcover).

Some Baltimoreans, it seems, lack a car, or a radio, or an introduction to the alphabet and so are unaware of WQSR and its morning show, featuring Steve Rouse. Ten years' worth of catchup can now be accomplished by reading "Rouse & Co. - Booked!" (Woodholme. 112 pages. $16.95 softcover). The gags come at you from Linda Sherman, Mike Thomas, Tom Davis, Maynard G. and especially the Fu Manchu beard fellow, Rouse: advising, for instance, not to use the book as a flotation device. The transition from audio to visual proceeds smoothly, and Rouse half-promises other books, such as "Birds That Know Who You Are."

The good Oysterback news is that a second volume of Helen Chappell's dispatches therefrom is hot off a Western Shore press: "Oysterback Spoken Here" (Woodholme. 163 pages. $14.95 softbound). There is, accordingly, no bad news.

Chappell reproduces occasional front pages and display ads from Oysterback Bugeye, the local newspaper (Helga Wallop, prop.); an oral history involving Desiree Grinch, Parsons Dreedle and Miss Nettie Leery; and (Chappell's not making these up) ringing endorsements from John Barth and Tom Horton.

Maryland's first acquaintance with war between nations was a matter of Frenchmen and Indians, of Forts Frederick and Cumberland, of Maj. Gen. Edward Braddock and Brig. Gen. John Forbes. Nowadays, though, reenactments are few; interest is sporadic. Allan Powell of Hagerstown, long a student of the struggle for control beyond the Alleghenies, sets out to make 1756-63 live again in his "Maryland and the French and Indian War" (Gateway. 270 pages. $35.45). An appendix reprints lively documents. Powell lists 16 other spellings for today's Conococheague. It remains true that Maryland "was laggard" about paying its share of the war's expenses. Maryland did offer 10 pounds for every "Indian Enemy" scalp.

Other times, other wars. The Confederacy commissioned 425 generals. Richard Owen and James Owen, father and son, have spent 28 years locating their graves, one by one. "Generals at Rest" (White Mane. 352 pages. $65) records (and pictures) the sites. Maryland's share: one dozen, seven of them in Green Mount Cemetery. They range from Isaac Ridgeway Trimble, who lost a leg (and his liberty) in Pickett's Charge, to John Henry Winder, commandant of "the infamous Andersonville" prison camp in Georgia.

"Mapping Maryland: The Willard Hackerman Collection" (Maryland Historical Society. 64 pages. $20 softcover) reproduces and annotates the cartographic highlights (1590 to 1882) of a current MHS exhibition.

Two new baseball biographies reward many years' research. "Jimmie Foxx, the Pride of Sudlersville" (Scarecrow Press. 281 pages. $39.50), is by Mark R. Milliken, of Chesapeake Beach. Double XX, of the Athletics and then the Red Sox, and who hit 58 home runs in 1932, had neither a business agent nor a showboat personality. He is nonetheless by now the subject of at least four books; Milliken's is the most sensitive and thorough.

"Rube Marquard: The Life and Times of a Baseball Hall of Famer," by Larry D. Mansch (McFarland. 262 pages. $29.95 softcover) pictures the 1908-1915 Giants lefthander also in his energetic retirement - a Baltimorean and a racetrack regular.

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