The oyster is not a beautiful animal, except perhaps to another oyster. . ."" So begins Hedeen in his charming and definitive study of the Chesapeake Bay oyster. A professor of biology specializing in invertebrate zoology, Hedeen (Naturalist on the Nanticoke) is a part-time waterman--tonging oysters and trot-lining crabs on the Nanticoke River of Maryland's Eastern Shore, the densest oyster area on Chesapeake Bay. Low in cholesterol, the enigmatic oyster is a celebrated creature, often landing on page one of Maryland newspapers--its impact on the local economy is great indeed. Hedeen's delightful history of the oyster-traces it through English literature, meanwhile exposing many myths such as the taboo against eating oysters in months without an R (oysters spawn in R-less months, exhausting themselves at reproduction and so are thin and watery--but not unhealthy). Though not an aphrodisiac (unless you think it is), the oyster is very high in zinc, which is necessary for a healthy prostrate and essential for the metabolism of testosterone, the male sex hormone. Scotch whiskey (or other hard liquors) do not turn oysters to stone, nor do they dissolve in gin, nor does white wine make them more digestible. Meanwhile, not one person in a thousand knows how to open an oyster--methods vary in different parts of the country, but a professional shucker can shuck 300 oysters an hour. Various mechanical contrivances, including laser rays, for shucking have been invented but fail in commercial use. There are folks who keep oysters as pets. Hedeen follows the oyster's life cycle, describes oyster culturing and private propagation, life on the oyster bar, diseases, parasites and predators (starfish and stingrays), tonging, dredging and diving for oysters. A pearl!