A splashy, entertaining guide to the lyrics of one of the most popular musicians of our time.

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DOLLY PARTON, SONGTELLER

MY LIFE IN LYRICS

A hefty retrospective on the six-decade career of a country music superstar who tells stories in song.

Parton has been mining her East Tennessee roots for crowd-pleasing songs ever since she wrote her first tune, about a corncob doll, at around the age of 6. With Nashville-based music journalist Oermann, she serves up her highest-grade ore in a handsomely produced collection of the lyrics to more than 175 of her songs, some in print for the first time. All songs have brief introductions on topics such as when and how Parton wrote them, and longer pieces show her evolution from “a hard-core country artist” with a “girlish soprano tremolo” to a multifaceted star also at ease with pop, gospel, and bluegrass. Moving chronologically through the artist’s life, the book reveals her abiding passions with thematic juxtapositions of songs, which range from “9 to 5” to the elegiac ballads “Jolene” (her song “most performed by others”) and “I Will Always Love You” (“For what she did with that, I will always love you, Whitney Houston”). Hundreds of color and black-and-white photos of Parton and others display her over-the-top tastes in fashion and wigs faithful to her motto: “Leave no rhinestone unturned.” Parton conceals more than she reveals about her 50-plus-year marriage to the reclusive Carl Dean and whether she’s had affairs (“Well, I don’t admit or deny anything”). She is frank, however, about professional setbacks. For example, when she was starting out in the industry, every major record company on Nashville’s Music Row turned her down as a vocalist. In the final pages, Parton sounds a poignant note in the lyrics to a song written with Kent Wells and released during the pandemic. The song, “When Life Is Good Again,” is the hymnlike lament of a repentant sinner who vows to change “when life is good again." One of Kirkus and Rolling Stone’s Best Music Books of 2020.

A splashy, entertaining guide to the lyrics of one of the most popular musicians of our time.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7972-0509-0

Page Count: 380

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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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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