Amiable but with an edge, and good reading for Nelson’s legion of followers.

IT'S A LONG STORY

MY LIFE

The beloved outlaw country icon rolls a fat one for his fans and sits down on the porch to spin a few yarns.

Those fat ones are legion in this book, whether in the company of the superbly suave Julio Iglesias or out on the road taking it to The Man. Still, Nelson (Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die, 2012, etc.) opens on an oddly dark note, first conjuring up and analyzing T.S. Eliot and then brooding on his infamous woes with the IRS a quarter-century ago. The author has much more to brood about besides that sorry episode, from the life course–transforming death of family early on to the demise of nearly all of his contemporaries. Yet he’s nothing if not a survivor, accustomed to dusting himself off and going back into battle: “Because I was small, I got the shit kicked out of me. Wound up with a broken nose and busted collarbone, but nothing stopped me….The minute I healed up, I was back out there.” Those battles, too, are many and storied, involving not just the IRS but also the whole of the Nashville establishment; Nelson has found allies in the likes of Ernest Tubb, Johnny Cash, and Chet Atkins. The last counseled, “Be patient, Willie, and you’ll get the mainstream audience you’ve been looking for”—and so Willie was, and so he did. The narrative is sometimes choppy, with staccato one-sentence paragraphs going on for long stretches like an endless jam on “Whiskey River,” and it’s often repetitive, as if—well, as if Nelson maybe rolled one too many before hitting the typewriter. Still, if the stories are familiar, and if we’ve heard them before, he still has much new to say on issues such as privacy, the changing music scene, and, of course, legalization (“I owe marijuana a lot”).

Amiable but with an edge, and good reading for Nelson’s legion of followers.

Pub Date: May 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-33931-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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