A well-researched pleasure for die-hard Haggard fans.

THE HAG

THE LIFE, TIMES, AND MUSIC OF MERLE HAGGARD

A revealing biography of country music star and lifelong contrarian Merle Haggard (1937-2016).

Raised among the oil fields of central California, he was constantly in trouble with the law as a young man, locked up in San Quentin when Johnny Cash gave a celebrated concert to the inmates. Suddenly aware that he could pursue a career in music, Haggard hit the road with songs about the life he knew, all swinging barroom doors and jailhouse floors. Eliot, who has written books about Bruce Springsteen, Phil Ochs, and the Eagles, among others, can be a trifle overblown: “I was constantly reminded of how Shakespearean the drama of his life was, how his early years echoed those of a young Hamlet, who suffers the premature death of the father he keeps alive in his dreams, dreams that produced an unshakable rage that warps the love he has for his mother and drives him to commit self-destructive acts.” Still, he turns up aspects of Haggard’s life and career that haven’t been well documented, including his wife’s terrible death from Alzheimer’s and his friendship with a kid who definitely did smoke marijuana while turning millions of hippies on to Haggard’s music: Gram Parsons. “He doesn’t hate long-haired people, or even moderately dislike them,” said Parsons to a Rolling Stone reporter. “He’s a nice, sweet cat.” Haggard could turn sweetness into ire but mostly for good reason, as when Bob Dylan (perhaps inadvertently) dissed him and the Nashville industry dumped him, Cash, and countless other classic country acts from the rosters in favor of new pop-country idols. Never an insider, Haggard easily took to the outlaw role. However, as Eliot shows, he was also appreciative of both the performers who had come before him and contemporaries like Dylan, Paul McCartney, and the Rolling Stones along with Cash, Owens, Jones, and his country peers.

A well-researched pleasure for die-hard Haggard fans.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-306-92321-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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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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