A comforting work of art in troubled times.

AMERICAN UTOPIA

The companion volume to the author’s acclaimed Broadway production of the same name.

Conceived before the pandemic, Byrne’s collaboration with New Yorker illustrator Kalman proceeds through a series of sparsely rendered full-color images about connection and how it feels to be together even when we are each alone. The author opens with what seems like a statement of purpose: “Despite all that has happened, despite all that is still happening, I think there is still possibility—we are still a work in progress. We’re not fixed, our brains can change. Who we are thankfully extends beyond ourselves...to the connections between all of us.” It’s a slim, suggestive volume, with sparing use of words amid the stark imagery. At times, it feels like Byrne is channeling the aphoristic, sloganeering spirit of Truisms, the shifting-viewpoint series of maxims by conceptual artist Jenny Holzer. “I’m not alone and we’re all the same, and the world won’t end, it will just change its name,” reads the accompaniment to two drawings of a woman who appears to be very much alone, dancing. “We’re only tourists in this life,” says another. Taken together, all of the text would likely fit on one page, and the sketches can be flipped through in a matter of minutes. The book is not a substitute for Byrne’s music or the Broadway musical—which is scheduled to return in September and will soon become a documentary by Spike Lee—but it does share the same sense of artistic daring, naiveté, and childlike wonder. “Here is an area of great confusion / No more information now / This is my job,” reads a simple haikulike passage that accompanies a series of seemingly unconnected drawings that proceed to the assurance, “It is safe right where you are.”

A comforting work of art in troubled times.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63557-668-9

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Another amiable book that is just what you’d expect from Willie.

WILLIE NELSON'S LETTERS TO AMERICA

An epistolary grab bag of memories, lyrics, jokes, and homespun philosophy from the legendary musician.

As an indefatigable touring artist, Nelson (b. 1933) has had a lot of time on his hands during the pandemic. Following his collaboration with his sister, Me and Sister Bobbie, the road warrior offers a loose collection of lessons from a full life. If you’ve never read a book by or about Nelson, this one—characteristically conversational, inspirational, wise, funny, and meandering—is a good place to start. The book is filled with lyrics to many of his best-known songs, most of which he wrote but others that he has made his own as well. For those steeped in The Tao of Willie (2006), some of the stories will be as familiar as the songs—e.g., the origin story of his nicknames, including Booger Red and Shotgun Willie; his time as a DJ and a door-to-door Bible and encyclopedia salesman; early struggles in Nashville with “all the record executives who only see music as a bottom-line endeavor”; and return to his home state of Texas. Many of the personal stories about family and friends can be found in Me and Sister Bobbie, but they are good stories from a rich life, one of abundance for which Nelson remains profoundly grateful. So he gives thanks in the form of letters: to Texas, America, God, golf, and marijuana; the audiences who have supported him and the band that has had his back; those who have played any part in Farm Aid or his annual Fourth of July concert bashes; and departed friends and deceased heroes, one of whom, Will Rogers, answers him back. Nelson even addresses one to Covid-19, which looms over this book, making the author itchy and antsy. Even at 87, he can’t wait to be on the road again.

Another amiable book that is just what you’d expect from Willie.

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7852-4154-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper Horizon

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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