Wynette’s tortured history is forcefully told, but her essence remains a mystery.

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TAMMY WYNETTE

TRAGIC COUNTRY QUEEN

The gory details of the country vocalist’s life.

McDonough (Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer, King of the Sex Film, 2005, etc.), who wrote the bestselling Neil Young biography Shakey (2002), takes on the big-voiced, troubled thrush who logged 20 No. 1 country hits between 1967 and 1976. Born Virginia Wynette Pugh (1942–1998) and raised humbly in rural Red Bay, Ala., she was a headstrong, willful girl who broke out of the honky-tonks and regional radio to notch her first big singles, including the controversial, politically divisive anthem “Stand By Your Man,” under the tutelage of Nashville producer Billy Sherrill. (Music City’s studio milieu and Sherrill’s key role in it are chronicled in a richly detailed early chapter.) Wynette lived through five harrowing marriages, tormented relationships with four children, a multitude of health problems, two debilitating decades of addiction to painkillers and a bizarre, unsolved (and possibly trumped-up) kidnapping. McDonough is clearly smitten with his talented subject—he rhapsodizes over her recordings and pens several cringe-inducing “Dear Tammy” letters—but Wynette remains something of a cipher; one never senses that much existed below the surface besides an abiding neediness. Two of her husbands emerge as the book’s most compelling figures. George Jones, the alcoholic, unpredictable singer who was Wynette’s musical role model and third spouse, is depicted as a deeply flawed yet loving professional and romantic partner. Producer-songwriter George Richey, her fifth husband and Wynette’s manager for 20 years, is painted as a greedy, controlling hillbilly Machiavelli who hastened Wynette’s premature demise in 1998 through a combination of overwork and (illegal) overmedication. McDonough interviewed all but a few of the principals in the story—including the normally reticent Jones—and he gets some wonderful material from peers like Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn. However, readers may remain uncertain about what animated Wynette’s powerfully performed music.

Wynette’s tortured history is forcefully told, but her essence remains a mystery.

Pub Date: March 4, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-670-02153-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2009

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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