History of a hospital

Mark Twain literary analysis

Bel Air pictures

Books of the Region

December 12, 2004|By James H. Bready | James H. Bready,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Art of Healing: Union Memorial Hospital - 150 Years of Caring For Patients

By Patrick Smithwick. UMH, 380 pages, $25.

During a century and a half, Union Memorial Hospital has changed its name (originally, Union Protestant Infirmary) and location, moving in 1923 from west to north Baltimore. This means it is older than most of our hospitals - and more settled, having neither lit out for the suburbs nor set up branches.

Patrick Smithwick interviewed (or edited the written recollections of) 44 hospital figures - here a doctor, there a nurse or Women's Board member (seven women founded the whole thing), groundskeeper or auxiliary volunteer. Medicine duly pervades. Among the hospital's famous doctors: Finney (actually, six Finneys), Johnson, Baetjer, Fisher, King, Stinson, Howard, Curtis, Wilgis, Clark, MacDonald, Mulholland, Meilman, Mispireta, et many al.). Also figuring in Smithwick's account are competitor hospitals, fund drives, powerful insurance lobbies and pharmaceutical price-rigging. What gives this book distinction are its people stories. Now the wife of Goucher College's president arrives, in extremis, after a Charles Street car crash. Now the growth of nearby high-rises for the elderly means a surfeit of hip fractures. Smithwick (himself born at Union Memorial) lingers on one doctor who squeezes his nearly 400 pounds into his Pierce-Arrow car and another who, upon entering a patient's room, parks his lighted cigarette by the doorway.

Progress can be bumpy. Union Memorial's nursing school has closed. Obstetrics is out; geriatrics, in. With Memorial Stadium's gladiators gone downtown, hospital hallways lack stretcher-borne superstars. And Union Memorial has become chain-owned: Helix, then MedStar.

Red Kayak

By Priscilla Cummings. Dutton. 209 pages. $15.99.

Which is better? To say nothing and please your two best school and play friends, or to tell the truth? Braden Parks is, at 13, over on the Shore, at home on land and water. His parents work with their hands. The household already knows sorrow, from the death of a baby daughter. Resented rich outsiders have moved into a mansion nearby.

The outsiders buy a red kayak. In risky weather, they go out on Corsica River, leading to fatality. But, something about the disaster is very wrong. What should a boy do, after he figures out what really happened?

Priscilla Cummings, of Annapolis, has attained national standing with her books for kids. Thanks to her, people far and near are aware of outdoor Maryland. Red Kayak, as it builds to an intense crisis of character, is a young adult book that will wind up in the hands of many grownups.

Mark Twain (Lives and Legacies)

By Larzer Ziff. Oxford, 126 pages, $17.95.

Soon it will be 100 years since his death, but Mark Twain is still very likely the most popular author in the U.S. literary canon. Also, one of the most written about. Now comes Larzer Ziff of Johns Hopkins with critical analysis that is on a plane with his subject.

There was so much to Mark Twain: humor (everyman division), conspicuousness (travels, lectures, articles, not just Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn), opinions (how that voice, decrying American imperialism in the early 1900s, would have resounded during 2004's election campaign!). Twain impugned the greed and exploitation of colonialism, by both this country and others.

Ziff, a grand master of literary criticism, specializes in 19th-century American writing. This may prove his most widely read book.

Bel Air (Images of America series)

By Bill Bates. Arcadia. 128 pages. $19.99 (softbound).

Arcadia is a South Carolina publisher with a good idea - a book series without texts; instead, pictures (reproducing old local postcards and photos), with extended modern captions. The format is unvarying, for localities and activities the nation over. Since 1993, more than 2,500 Images books have appeared. Bel Air, supervised by Bill Bates, a Harford County historian, is the 47th with a Maryland setting.

Pictured are many a hotel that catered to travelers on U.S. Route 1, as well as other old-time landmarks: the Argonne cinema, retail stores (Simon Getz, Polan's, Whip Stitch, Richardson's, Boyd & Fulford), churches, the Ma & Pa train station, schools, parades, carriage factory, race track, the Aegis (does any other U.S. newspaper fuse the first two letters of its name?).

Making Promises

By Michelle Monkou. BET Books. 320 pages, $5.99 (softbound).

The seven principles of Kwanzaa, observed on a ranch in Texas, bring together the people of Michelle Monkou's latest novel. The hero, Bodine, scorched for having taken the employees' side in one more corporate scandal, has left the firm to become a cowboy. Amber, a magazine writer, arrives to do an expose - unaware that she has brought along a stalker.

Monkou, from England by way of Guyana, lives in Laurel. Alternating between romance and danger, her pace never idles, and often it lopes.

The Golden Voices of Football.

By Ted Patterson. Sports Publishing LLC. 190 pages. $29.95 (oversize).

A career sports broadcaster, Ted Patterson is also a leading collector of sports material and the author of sports books. He has followed his recent insider book, The Golden Voices of Baseball, with this one about football. It is copiously illustrated and includes a CD excerpting from 42 announcers' worth of game action. Radio's first college football game was in Pittsburgh (1921); TV's first pro football transmission, in Brooklyn (1939).

Many of the great broadcasters make appearances in Patterson's book: Graham McNamee, Ted Husing (What announcer today would call the play on the field "putrid?"), Bill Stern, Curt Gowdy, and broadcasting from Baltimore, Ernie Harwell and Chuck Thompson. Also showing up is Howard Cosell, who memorably prompted from Red Smith, "I have tried hard to like Howard Cosell, and I have failed."

James Bready writes monthly on local books. He is a former Evening Sun editorial writer.

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