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In 1987, two-time National Book Award-winning author John Barth cranked out his tome The Tidewater Tales. In it, the then-57-year-old novelist detailed the intense relationship of a suddenly pregnant couple who disparage the downfall of society and their child’s future. To escape life’s troubles, they set off in a sailboat to explore the paradisiacal Chesapeake Bay. For them, Maryland’s most pristine tributary system is the only place civilization hasn’t pounded into a useless wasteland. Barth has lived on the Eastern Shore his entire life, but until now, its inhabitants hadn’t seen anything close to the eerily resilient Pfiesteria piscicida microbe wiping out the state’s chief supply of seafood. So when Barth accepts a lifetime achievement award from the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference Committee tonight, be assured that at least part of his speech will be aimed at the plight ravaging his home, and how the problem just might be the fault of this carelessly expanding universe. Barth speaks at

6 p.m. at Montgomery College’s

Theatre Arts Building Auditorium,

51 Mannakee St., Rockville. $10. (301) 315-6547. (Sean Daly)