Gordon makes a convincing case that if music can’t exactly save us, it can tell us who we are.

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MEMPHIS RENT PARTY

THE BLUES, ROCK & SOUL IN MUSIC'S HOMETOWN

The acclaimed music chronicler tells the story of Memphis through its songs.

Gordon (Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion, 2013, etc.) seeks to evoke the heart of the metropolis as reflected not only through its physical landscape, but also through its soul. The author’s latest is a collection of 20 profiles or portraits—subjects include, among others, Bobby Bland, Townes Van Zandt, Alex Chilton, and Jerry Lee Lewis—that together add up to a musical-textual collage. “I began to connect the art to the life,” he writes, referring to the Memphis blues player Furry Lewis, “to understand how Furry’s circumstances—his ramshackle dwelling and his history—were reflected in his songs.” The idea is to frame music as not just a way of life in other words, but also as life’s expression, which has been Gordon’s idea all along. Unlike his earlier books, this new work is something of a grab bag, bringing together liner notes and journalistic pieces, some never before in print. Given the subject, though, that approach seems oddly appropriate; music, after all, is complex and elusive, as are many of the people portrayed here. There’s Jim Dickinson, the legendary Memphis musician and producer who worked with Chilton and had performed on “Wild Horses.” “There’s a lot of people that can play better than me,” he declared. “But they can’t play with the Stones better than me.” Or Sam Phillips, who once carried on “a heated argument” with Jerry Lee Lewis at Sun studios: “Could the devil’s music save souls? Immediately after Sam withdrew from the room, Jerry Lee cut the master take of ‘Great Balls of Fire.’ ” Best of all is the author’s extended piece on the legal battle over Robert Johnson’s copyrights, a story originally written for LA Weekly, in which the art of business and the business of art become egregiously intertwined.

Gordon makes a convincing case that if music can’t exactly save us, it can tell us who we are.

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63286-773-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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