Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Local Lit

New Books from Area Writers

        Ohio: The History of a People By Andrew R.L. Cayton (Ohio State University Press; $35). “Ohio” and “history.” In combination, these two words have the cumulative effect of a Nite-All overdose. Author and Miami University professor Dr. Cayton works hard to reverse these all-too-common symptoms in time for next year's state bicentennial. Focusing on the conflicting desires of social conservatism and the creation of a common good, Dr. Cayton creates a wide-screen portrait of Ohio's first 200 years filled with the voices of all Ohioans, from its farmers and factory workers to the astronauts and presidents gracing the cover.

       The Baby Tree: By Erin McGraw (Story Line Press; $15.95). Set amid the placid world of a small Methodist congregation, this taut, meditative first novel by Ms. McGraw, a University of Cincinnati lecturer, follows the public and private life of its pastor, Kate Gussey. Kate's micromanaged world comes undone by the reappearance of her first husband. His destabilizing presence forces upon her (and readers) the type of questions that perpetually confront both the married and the faithful.

       The Legal Writer: 30 Rules for the Art of Legal Writing: By Judge Mark Painter (Jarndyce and Jarndyce Press; $19.95). Short sentences, short paragraphs and punctuation — it's the stuff of plain English, but not in the world of legalese. For those attorneys who feel the need to write “notwithstanding the fact that” when “although” works just as well, First District Court of Appeals Judge Painter is here to help. Technical points such as phrasal adjectives and serial adjectives are discussed, along with occasional common-sense nuggets such as: “The period — it is that key down on the lower right of your keyboard. Use it.”

       It Takes a Worried Man: By Brendan Halpin (Villard; $21.95). Writing about life in the shadow of cancer is nothing new, but Mr. Halpin, a Cincinnati native now living in Boston, handles the task with an uncharacteristic frankness and humor. When Mr. Halpin's 32-year-old wife is diagnosed with breast cancer, he sets out on a personal and literary odyssey fueled by fear, anger and helplessness. A unique voice to say the least, and one amplified since the book's release by ringing endorsements from the promotional trifecta of Oprah, Rosie and People Magazine.

       Carver: High Mountain Tragedy: By C.H. Foertmeyer (Writer's Club Press; $23.95). The setting to this rambling and glacially paced plot may be the picturesque altitudes of the Rocky Mountains, but the territory Cincinnatian Mr. Foertmeyer seeks to explore is one of ridicule and revenge. In a Columbine-inspired conceit that even the author acknowledges, two tormented teens set out on their own unique path to retribution. Unfortunately, the momentum Mr. Foertmeyer builds in these 455 pages leads to a less than satisfying climax.

       Contact Rob Stout by mail: c/o Tempo-Books, Cincinnati Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202.


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