Skimmings

Skimmings: Short reviews of new books

2014-08-10T00:00:00Z Skimmings: Short reviews of new books Arizona Daily Star
August 10, 2014 12:00 am

”The Greatest Sitcoms of All Time” by Martin Gitlin; Scarecrow Press (430 pages, $65)

It’s one thing to argue whether “Seinfeld” is the greatest sitcom ever, as writer Martin Gitlin claims in his new book. You may even want to battle over his top five, which also includes “All in the Family,” “M*A*S*H,” “I Love Lucy” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

But how do you argue whether “The Flintstones” is the 70th-best?

Gitlin does indeed list the top 70 along with descriptions, bits of dialogue, awards won and other information on the top shows.

Gitlin spent a lot of time tracking down vintage comedies online and on DVD, and established a set of criteria for inclusion, among them the show’s impact, how long it originally ran, ratings, awards, how funny a show was and whether it is still respected.

“One Plus One” by Jojo Moyes; Pamela Dorman Books/Viking (368 pages, $27.95)

The delightful, comic “One Plus One” is as likable a book as you will come across this summer, light and funny, with surprisingly subtle commentary on how the income gap separates people emotionally as well as financially.

Moyes has a breezy, dialogue-driven style that drops you easily into the minds of her mismatched protagonists, who live on opposite ends of Great Britain’s economic spectrum. Tech whiz Ed is a millionaire in danger of losing his business, his money and his freedom, due to accusations of insider trading. Ed is essentially a good guy, but his decision-making lately has been faulty. Jess, on the other hand, is used to financial crises because she’s always in the middle of one. The single mom of bullied Goth stepson Nicky and math genius daughter Tanzie — their father has left them, claiming a nervous breakdown — Jess works two jobs. She’s a house cleaner by day, which she mostly likes and works at the local pub by night.

Normally their paths wouldn’t cross, but Jess cleans Ed’s house, and Ed frequents Jess’ bar and ends up drunk there. Then one night, Ed spots Jess, the kids and their large, smelly, drooling dog Norman next to a broken-down car by the side of the road. They are — or were — on the way to a math competition in Scotland. Regretting the offer as soon as he makes it, Ed offers to drive them there.

During the time on the road, the expected happens. Any fan knows a romantic comedy is only as good as its roadblocks, and Moyes sets up a few solid ones.

“Land of Love and Drowning” by Tiphanie Yanique; Riverhead (358 pages, $27.95)

A multigenerational novel set in Yanique’s native land, “Love and Drowning” opens just before the U.S. arrives, after purchasing several of the islands from Denmark in 1917. It concludes in the 1970s.

The coming of the Americans — and the ensuing arrival of the tourists — will change everything. The newcomers snap up prime real estate and privatize beaches, increasingly isolating themselves from the native population — except when they want a dose of local color as a backdrop. Meanwhile, islanders are shipped off to war, experiencing Jim Crow first hand in Louisiana — decades before their kids watch Birmingham and Selma on television.

But while Yanique’s novel keeps half an eye on these troublesome outsiders, its focus and energies are found elsewhere, as multiple narrators spin alternative histories rather than blandly accepting those being imposed.

—Rich Heldenfels,

Akron Beacon Journal

—Connie Ogle,

The Miami Herald

—Mike Fischer,

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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