Chapter 23 - Charm City
In late October, Dave and I had the opportunity to stay with our 6 year old grandson in Baltimore while his 'rents went away for an anniversary weekend. Having left the area over 12 years ago, it is always pleasant but sometimes a surprise to go back. We make the trip several times a year to visit family and friends.
On the road trip up, besides solving all the problems of the modern world, we started talking about writers who have made Baltimore their home or who have written about Baltimore and Maryland. Baltimore's literary tradition goes back a long way and includes Edgar Allen Poe, H.L. Mencken, Edna St. Vincent Millay, John Dos Passos and, of course, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald was here for a relatively long time for him, 5 years, while Zelda was in and out of various hospitals for alcoholism and personality disorders.
Still the home of many wonderful writers here are some of my favorite writings about and authors from Maryland.
Baltimore Blues by Laura Lippman - Lippman was a journalist for a Baltimore newspaper and wrote novels while employed full-time. Her series featuring Tess Monaghan has won numerous awards but her standalone books are as wonderful. Baltimore Blues is the first in the Tess Monaghan series but I would encourage you to try all.
The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler - This novel, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize was one of Tyler's firsts. It is about a travel guide writer who, after his marriage disintergrates, starts to have a relationship with his dog trainer and her son. I enjoy Tyler's snapshots of Baltimore as well as her finely sketched portraits of her characters.
You Belong to Me by Karen Rose - Karen Rose writes romantic suspense and this book is the first of her Baltimore series. The book is about a forensic pathologist, Lucy Trask, who stumbles across a dead body at a chess table in a Baltimore park. One thing leads to another and soon Lucy is trying to solve murders before she is a victim herself. While romantic suspense may not be your thing, there is enough suspense to make this series compelling and intelligent.
Kindred by Octavia Butler - This is the first sci-fi/fantasy book written by an African American woman. Part time-travel and part slave narrative, it is the story of Dana who finds herself shuttled back and forth between 1976 and a pre-Civil War Maryland plantation.
Mistress of Riversdale: The Plantation Letters of Rosalie Stier Calvert, 1795-1821 by Rosalie Stier Calvert - In 1803 Rosalie Stier Calvert began a correspondence home to her family in Belgium which lasted until her death in 1821. During this time she ran a plantation, took care of her family's large financial portfolios in America, and birthed 9 children. Due to her financial savvy she became one of the richest women in America and her son, Charles established the Maryland Agricultural College now the University of Maryland, College Park.
"Baltimore is warm but pleasant...I belong here, where everything is civilized and gay and rotted and polite." F. Scott Fitzgerald