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Day-tripping in Oysterback


Two little old ladies with blue hair and a copy of something like "Ye Olde Guide to Ye Quainte Eastern Shore" wander into the Blue Crab Tavern. They have come to Oysterback, looking for the kind of eccentric characters that James Michener describes in his book about the Chesapeake. They won't be disappointed. Oysterback has its share of quaint characters.

Oysterback is the creation of Helen Chappell -- journalist, teacher and free-lance writer. Since 1988, she has written about Oysterback for the op-ed page of The Sun. "The Oysterback Tales" collects 41 of those articles. Taken separately, the articles seem like a whimsical political cartoon -- "The Muppet Show" with a -- of Jonathan Swift. Taken together, they create an oddly believable world.

Lovable and sometimes despicable eccentrics talk in a mixture of Baltimorese, hillbilly and Eastern Shore dialects. Such people as Desiree Grinch, Ferrus T. Buckett, Hudson Swann and Miss Nettie ponder the meaning of love, death and giving up cigarettes, from a place that isn't real but feels as though it should be.


Ms. Scharper teaches writing at Towson State University.

Title: "The Oysterback Tales"

Author: Helen Chappell

Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press

Length, price: 115 pages, $19.95

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