PRIME TIMES: Writers on Their Favorite TV Shows
Bauer (Prairie City, Iowa ) creates a pop culture junkie's dream in this anthology of essays about television by many of today's most popular writers: Nick Hornby dissects the allure of The West Wing , Elizabeth McCracken hilariously confesses her adoration of America's Funniest Home Videos , Jill McCorkle waxes nostalgic about The Andy Griffith Show . Personal examination, program dissection, social commentary and mere recollection share the pages of this lighthearted yet uneven collection. The essays work best when they move beyond the show. Lloyd Schwartz credits his love of language to Burns and Allen. Gilligan's Island becomes a profound backdrop for Lan Samantha Chang's reminiscence of her own cultural isolation in Wisconsin. In contrast, Nora Ephron's paean to Mary Richards reveals little of the show or of Ephron, and James Alan McPherson's theoretical examination of Star Trek feels incongruous among the more compelling personal pieces. The biggest flaw is the assumption that readers know the programs discussed. Mark Leyner's take on Hawaii Five-O , for example, will baffle those who haven't seen the show. With the skill of the writers and the wealth of material, this book succeeds by doing what most literature hopes to discourage: it inspires the reader to put down the book and turn on the television. (Aug.)
Forecast: A regional NPR campaign will boost awareness, and Three Rivers will simultaneously publish a paperback edition ($12.95 -8114-9).