Tuning into Boston’s TV history
In “The Golden Age of Boston Television’’ (University Press of New England), TV critic Terry Ann Knopf blends memoir and media history in her insider’s look at what local viewers were watching between the early ‘70s to the early ‘90s.
The book divides itself into two pieces. The first offers a thoroughly researched, station-by-station examination of the programs, players, and network battles that turned Boston TV into a player on the national stage.
Readers will find familiar names and faces here — weatherman Dick Albert, Chet Curtis and Natalie Jacobson, Liz Walker, the first woman of color to anchor the nightly news, as well as the network shows set in Boston (“Cheers,’’ St. Elsewhere,’’ and “Spenser: For Hire’’).
The second half offers glimpses into the life of a TV critic as well as a portrait of the city itself, with its contradictions and its faults (racism, insularity). She writes of “the peculiarities of New England’s Puritan heritage, the conservatism of the state’s powerful Roman Catholic Church, and the strong streak of parochialism that has sometimes put a brake on the culture’s more liberal impulses.”
“I had,’’ Knopf writes in the introduction to this candid and thoughtful book, “the good fortune to be present during a historic era, as both a participant and chronicler of that time. It didn’t get much better than that.’’
Short stories with a sense of place
In the short-story collection “A Field Guide to Murder & Fly Fishing’’ (Green Writers), Vermont author Tim Weed proves himself a skilled creator of a sense of place, whether he’s writing about New Hampshire, Nantucket, New England elsewheres, or Cuba, Colorado, or El Salvador. His characters, mostly men, mostly in a period of adulthood before middle age, wrestle with doubt, with themselves. In “Scrimshaw,” a Cape Cod carpenter with a penchant for scrimshaw flies every day to Nantucket to work on multimillion dollar mansions. Weed gives a narrow-eyed look at the island’s summer inhabitants, dripping wealth, and a carpenter’s sense of a jobsite, its Tyvek and pallets of shingles. Of one house there, he writes, “It was a sprawling, well-built place: tightly seamed trim, hardwood floors and cupboards, no cost cutting on materials or technique, even the invisible stuff that was obvious only to a carpenter.” A few stories drift into magical realism, and each story deposits one definitively into a geography, of mind and map.
Food for thought
Crystal King’s debut novel, “Feast of Sorrow’’ (Touchstone), focuses on Marcus Gavius Apicius, a 1st century AD gourmand often credited for the Roman cookbook “Apicius.’’ In researching her book, King spent hours in the kitchen experimenting with the ancient recipes, some of which are included in the novel, like traveler’s honey wine, piglet in silphium sauce, Parthian chicken (a favorite of King and her husband’s), and milk-fed snails (“when they are so well fed that they cannot go back in their shells, pull them out and fry in some oil”). On Tuesday at 6 pm at Benedetto restaurant at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, King will pair her book with a three-course meal inspired by Apicius’s recipes prepared by chef Michael Pagliarini. Tickets are $150, which includes wine and a copy of the book.
Pick of the Week
Bonnie Tragakis of An Unlikely Story in Plainville recommends “Walking to Listen: 4,000 Miles Across America, One Story at a Time’’ by Andrew Forsthoefel (Bloomsbury): “More than a story of the physical trials and tribulations of walking across the country (although there’s plenty of that too!), this is a deeply felt account of the trials and tribulations of growing up . . . the ‘how do I fit into this world?’ kind of exploration. Enjoy a journey across our country through this fascinating young man’s eyes as he recounts and ponders the stories and life philosophies from people he meets along the way.’’
“The Windfall’’ by Diksha Basu (Crown)
“The City Always Wins’’ by Omar Robert Hamilton (MCD)
“The Show that Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock’’ by David Weigel (Norton)
Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter.”