Nonfiction, October 5, 2018 | Xpress Reviews    

This engrossing, well-written work will appeal to fans and those previously unfamiliar with Field’s work; recommended for readers interested in behind-the-scenes books, television history, and the craft of writing; casual drink-makers may be overwhelmed by the detail and assumption of knowledge; not designed for the casual wine enthusiast or tourist; this absorbing volume is perfect for television lovers; a perfect wedding or house-warming gift and a useful addition to any kitchen or library

Week ending October 5, 2018

redstarField, Sally. In Pieces. Grand Central. Sept. 2018. 416p. photos. ISBN 9781538763025. $29. BIOG/FILM
Talented and versatile Academy– and Emmy Award–winning actor Field’s credits range from Gidget and Sybil to Norma Rae and Places in the Heart, among many others. Now she reveals the personal side of her story, along with her rise to fame. Reverberating throughout these pages is the impact of sexual abuse by her stepfather and her struggles to work through her relationship with her beloved mother. Field addresses these issues frankly, as she does the complex facets of her marriages and other associations (including her much-publicized relationship with actor Burt Reynolds), as well as various episodes in her behind-the-scenes professional life. Her discussion of building a vibrantly enduring acting career in the midst of turbulence is especially fascinating. There are vivid anecdotes from on and off the set, well-drawn accounts of priceless tutelage by famed Lee Strasberg, and powerful descriptions of how Field crafted major dramatic roles from deep within her emotional reservoir. It is all here and in Field’s inimitable words, enhanced by thoughtfully chosen photographs.
VERDICT Especially relevant in light of the growing awareness of rape and sexual assault, this engrossing, well-written work will appeal to fans and those previously unfamiliar with Field’s work.—Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield, NJ

Finn, Paula. Sitcom Writers Talk Shop: Behind the Scenes with Carl Reiner, Norman Lear, and Other Geniuses of TV Comedy. Rowman & Littlefield. Oct. 2018. 274p. photos. index. ISBN 9781538109182. $36; ebk. ISBN 9781538109199. TV
Finn (Our Lives Were Meant To Be Shared) talks with more than 40 sitcom writers and showrunners in this collection of candid interviews with everyone from Carl Reiner (The Dick Van Dyke Show) and Sam Bobrick (Saved by the Bell) to Irma Kalish (The Facts of Life) and Janet Leahy (Grace Under Fire). Finn offers readers a glimpse into the minds of the creative leaders behind many of the formative and lasting stories in television history. The book has forewords by Ed Asner and Carol Kane, and Finn spends much of the preface and introduction discussing her father, The Honeymooners writer Herbert Finn, and how she grew up immersed in the television industry. Occasional photos and shorter interviews with related writers break up the chapters. A standout piece is a chat with Dava Savel, the showrunner for Ellen and writer of the groundbreaking “The Puppy Episode,” in which Ellen DeGeneres came out as a lesbian. The volume closes with an appendix containing snippets of interviews organized under themes, such as rewriting or censorship.
VERDICT Recommended for readers interested in behind-the-scenes books, television history, and the craft of writing.—Melissa Engleman, Univ. of Tennessee at Martin

Muldoon, Sean & others. The Dead Rabbit Mixology & Mayhem: The Story of John Morrissey and the World’s Best Cocktail Menu. Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2018. 288p. photos. notes. ISBN 9781328451873. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781328453334. BEVERAGES
Named World’s Best Bar in 2016, the Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog has been a forerunner and mainstay of the craft cocktail movement, constantly pushing the envelope with unique variations on classic cocktails. It has also been innovative in the realm of menu design. For the past few years, the bar has listed its featured mixed drinks in graphic novel format. Each menu explores and celebrates the gritty past of New York; the name of the bar comes from an Irish gang in the 1850s. This latest compilation (Volume 4) by founders Muldoon and Jack McGarry, along with Jillian Vose, focuses on a character known as the Rabbit (an avatar of real-life gangster John Morrissey [1831–78]) and his violent resurrection in 1970s Manhattan. Interspersed with the graphic story, are recipes for 100 cocktails. The drinks are complex, but the book includes all the needed subrecipes, albeit in amounts geared for restaurant service. In addition, there are notes about the inspiration for each beverage, advice on how to create new cocktails, and service tips.
VERDICT Devotees of the bar, bar culture, and mixology will enjoy this, but casual drink-makers may be overwhelmed by the detail and assumption of knowledge.—Devon Thomas, Chelsea, MI

Parr, Rajat & Jordan Mackay. The Sommelier’s Atlas of Taste: A Field Guide to the Great Wines of Europe. Ten Speed: Crown. Oct. 2018. 352p. photos. index. ISBN 9780399578236. $40; ebk. ISBN 9780399578243. BEVERAGES
Parr and Mackay (Secrets of the Sommeliers) delve into a subjective mapping of how great wines should taste. The structure of the book as something of a road trip connects to the mapping concept, though without necessarily linking wines of similar character and appeal. The travelog aspect even carries through to occasional sidebar entries on places to eat. With 200 pages devoted to France; a fraction as much each for Germany, Austria, Spain, and Italy; and the exclusion of other wine countries such as Greece and Portugal, the book stops short of a truly pan-European overview. Despite this limitation, this volume is densely packed with rich detail on certain appellations and producers, providing useful insight for wine professionals and serious enthusiasts.
VERDICT Of narrow appeal; not designed for the casual wine enthusiast or tourist. Recommended with reservations.—Peter Hepburn, Coll. of the Canyons Lib., Santa Clarita, CA

Television Finales: From Howdy Doody to Girls. Syracuse Univ. Oct. 2018. 491p. ed. by Douglas L. Howard & David Bianculli. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780815636045. $70; pap. ISBN 9780815611059. $35.95; ebk. ISBN 9780815654476. TV
Howard (academic chair, English, Suffolk Cty. Community Coll; coeditor, The Essential Sopranos Reader) and Bianculli (TV & film history, Rowan Univ.; TV critic, NPR’s Fresh Air; founder & editor in chief, TVWorthWatching.com) collect essays from scholars and critics who focus on the series finales of more than 70 television programs that aired in the United States. While the titles span 50-plus years of TV history, the majority are from the last 20 years, with an emphasis on recent prestige broadcasts. Each piece includes an overview of the series, explains how the final episode capped the show, describes the critical reception (and the more vocal reaction of fans), and offers further references. The usual suspects (M*A*S*H, The Sopranos, The Mary Tyler Moore Show) are here, but the text includes some deeper cuts, too, including Nichols, a single-season Western starring James Garner, and The Week That Was, a mid-1960s precursor to The Daily Show. More interesting is the cross-communication among essays, with controversial endings ( Seinfeld, St. Elsewhere) frequently entering the conversation. Finally in an age of reboots, new life on streaming services, and leaps to the big screen, some entries (The X-Files) ask how final series finales truly are.
VERDICT Though academic, this absorbing volume is perfect for television lovers.—Terry Bosky, Madison, WI

Westmoreland, Susan. Good Housekeeping Cookbook: 1,200 Triple-Tested Recipes. Hearst: Sterling. Oct. 2018. 704p. photos. index. ISBN 9781618372659. $35; ebk. ISBN 9781618372666. COOKING
The Good Housekeeping brand conjures visions of midcentury suburban domesticity, but this beautifully illustrated volume—a new edition of the company’s flagship cookbook—is thoroughly modern, making good use of fresh ingredients and labor-saving devices and reflecting the current interest in nutritional balance and cooking from a range of culinary traditions. The scope of the book is vast, from osso buco to smoothies, with grilled-asparagus-and-shiitake-mushroom tacos in between. While there are fancy dishes here, the emphasis is on meals a home cook can put on the table with minimal fuss. Recipes are well organized and clearly laid out, employing simple ingredients and straightforward but interesting techniques. Numerous sidebars offer basic tips on equipment, ingredient selection, food prep or storage, and kitchen skills. In places, the book takes a fun theme-and-variations approach to a traditional dish, as with “Chicken Soup, Five Ways” and a collection of quintet of short recipes using roasted peppers. Not to be overlooked: the book has a very sturdy binding, which is absolutely essential for a 700-page tome.
VERDICT Suitable for everyone from the beginning cook to kitchen veterans, this comprehensive work would be a perfect wedding or house-warming gift and a useful addition to any kitchen or library.—Christopher Myers, Lake Oswego P.L., OR

LJ Reviews

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