Notable books for the week of June 8, 1990 -- Short reviews on recently released titles

Notable books for the week of June 8, 1990

Reviews in Brief

* The Beast, the Eunuch and the Glass-Eyed Child: Television in the ’80s Ron Powers (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, $24.95) A dyspeptic collection of 44 television columns originally written for GQ. B- * 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 Cockroaches of Stay More Donald Harington (Vintage, paperback, $9.95) Regional literature (the Ozarks)? Only if you consider Faulkner merely regional. A-

* Dark Star: The Tragic Story of Roy Orbison Ellis Amburn (Lyle Stuart, $18.95) A biography that never pierces Orbison’s black leather armor. D

* 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

* Family Sins William Trevor (Viking, $18.95) Masterful short ction by the proli c Irish writer. 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-

* An Inconvenient Woman Dominick Dunne (Crown, $19.95) Dunne’s most recent chronicle of well-heeled heels. B

* Letters of Katherine Anne Porter Selected and edited by Isabel Bayley (Atlantic Monthly Press, $29.95) Porter’s story unfolds, incompletely and tfully, in this collection culled from the thousands of letters she wrote during her long lifetime. B

* My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist Mark Leyner (Harmony, paperback, $7.95) At a time when most ction is as well made and exciting as oral wallpaper, here’s a writer willing to decorate the room with the contents of his own dynamited head. B+

* Norma Shearer Gavin Lambert (Knopf, $24.95) A sympathetic but shrewd portrait of the MGM star. 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 rst book of ction, 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 some ill will. C

Also Noted * Andrée Putman: A Designer Apart François Olivier Rousseau (Rizzoli, $100) A sumptuous pictorial survey of the private and public spaces created by the influential French interior designer.

* The Civil War Battlefield Guide The Conservation Fund; Frances H. Kennedy, Editor (Houghton Mif in, $29.95) Detailed maps (with color-coded troop movements) placed alongside battle narratives by such scholars as James MacPherson and Stephen Sears.

* The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier Amy Wilentz (Touchstone, paperback, $9.95) Passionate and detailed, this is likely to be the standard account of contemporary Haiti for some time to come.

* Songs From the Alley Kathleen Hirsch (Anchor Books, paperback, $10.95) Elaborate case histories of two homeless women.

* Spider Woman’s Granddaughters Edited and with an introduction by Paula Gunn Allen (Fawcett, paperback, $11.95) An anthology of Stories — both traditional and contemporary — by Native American women.

* Spring Hill, Tennessee Tom T. Hall (Longstreet Press, $16.95) A second novel from singer-songwriter Hall, this one about the effect of a GM plant on a rural Tennessee community.