Notable books for the week of May 25, 1990 -- Short reviews on recently released titles

Notable books for the week of May 25, 1990


*Because It is Bitter, and Because It is My Heart Joyce Carol Oates (Dutton, $19.95) The masterful realist at the peak of her powers. Comparisons with Balzac, Dickens, and Hardy are not farfetched. A

*The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Volume I (Citadel Twilight, paperback, $12.95) Dick was one of the major science fiction writers of the ’60s and ’70s, but his short stories vary in quality from low-grade hack to high-octane genius. On average, B+

*Family Pictures Sue Miller (Harper & Row, $19.95) An ordinary Chicago family with an autistic child — a loving, suffering family that endures and tries to learn. A

*Going Back to the River Marilyn Hacker (Vintage, paperback, $9.95) No contemporary poet writes as well of the comedy of love as Marilyn Hacker, and none can approach her inviting combination of relaxation, wit, and formality. A-

*The King Donald Barthelme (Harper & Row, $14.95) Barthelme’s device of placing legendary figures in a disenchanted modern context (in this case, Arthurian knights in World War II England) wears thin. C

*Saturday Night Susan Orlean (Knopf, $19.95) The rituals of Saturday night as observed by Americans from Massachusetts to Wyoming. A

*Small Victories: The Real World of a Teacher, Her Students & Their High School Samuel J. Freedman (Harper & Row, $22.95) An exhaustive, unsentimental report from the battle-scarred regions of American education. A

*Walter Winchell Michael Herr (Knopf, $18.95) In his first book of fiction, Michael Herr (Dispatches) creates a new form — the screenplay as novel. A

*What Lisa Knew: The Truths and Lies of the Steinberg Case Joyce Johnson (Putnam, $22.95) With this book, Johnson does what she wishes the courts had done: She tries Hedda Nussbaum as well as Joel Steinberg. Unfortunately, her case is built on conjecture, speculation, and not a little ill will. C

*What’s That Pig Outdoors? A Memoir of Deafness Henry Kisor (Hill and Wang, $18.95) An eloquent and unusual autobiography from the book editor of the Chicago Sun-Times. A-


*The Doctors Book of Home Remedies The Editors of Prevention Magazine Health Books (Rodale Press, $26.95) A compendium of commonsense tips and old-time remedies: Yank your tongue to cure hiccups; drink licorice tea to soothe a sore throat.

*Encounters & Reflections: Art in the Historical Present Arthur C. Danto (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $22.95) From Chinese painting of the 19th and 20th centuries to the sullen art of contemporary David Salle, Danto’s reflections and reviews have made him our most celebrated guide to the art world.

*Faulkner: Novels 1936-1940 (Library of America, $32.50) Restores the text of these books as Faulkner originally wrote them: Absalom, Absalom!, The Unvanquished, If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem (The Wild Palms), The Hamlet.

*Matchbook Art Yosh Kashiwabara (Chronicle Books, paperback, $16.95) Well, maybe not as kitschy and collectible as Depression-era dishes, but curiously pleasurable all the same.

*Modern Manners: An Etiquette Book for Rude People P.J. O’Rourke (Atlantic Monthly Press, paperback, $8.95) Still the college sophomore, O’Rourke writes aphorisms like these: ”Music: All music necessary for a real party can be supplied by a half dozen Supremes records and one dance music tape selected by the homo.” ”Basketball: The sad thing about basketball is that many of the players are embarrassed about being such tall black people.” ”Rock concerts: If the show wasn’t any good, wait outside the stage door with a gun. This will lift the rock star’s spirits by making him feel as important as John Lennon.” Give him a skip.

*A New Path to the Waterfall Raymond Carver (Atlantic Monthly Press, paperback, $10) The final poems of minimalist Raymond Carver.

*The Oxford Book of Marriage Edited by Helge Rubenstein (Oxford, $19.95) An eclectic marriage anthology culled from letters, fiction, plays, essays. ”I am restless & moody & misanthropic & lazy & have no money except what I earn and if I got ill you would starve,” the incomparable Evelyn Waugh wrote his intended.