A shift in perspective makes a familiar story seem fresh all over again.

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ME AND SISTER BOBBIE

TRUE TALES OF THE FAMILY BAND

A brother-and-sister memoir celebrates more than eight decades of love, family, and music.

Willie and his older sister, Bobbie, are clearly grateful for each other, and readers will be almost as grateful that they decided to share their story together. Most of the details are already familiar for fans of Willie and country music in general, and some are legend. Far less is known about Bobbie, the keyboard player who says little onstage but who has long provided the backbone of Willie’s band, which he has dubbed the Family ever since she joined. The chapters attributed to “Brother” and “Sister” alternate, showing how their lives and destinies have intertwined, even during the extended stretches when they weren’t playing music together. Willie builds a strong case that Bobbie is the musical virtuoso in the family, that her range has allowed him to extend and expand his own, and that she was the “missing piece of my musical puzzle” that made him a beloved institution as a recording and touring artist rather than just a songwriter. Bobbie testifies to how Willie’s innate poetic sensibility and irrepressible likability were present from childhood and how his determination to follow his own instincts eventually paid dividends. Their split narrative covers their many marriages (four for Willie, three for Bobbie) as well as the challenges and heartbreak that Bobbie has faced, information that will be new to most readers. For example, she discusses how she lost custody of her children because of the belief that women shouldn’t be playing music where alcohol was sold; how she was abused by husbands and lovers; and how racism, sexism, and depression would have tragic consequences for her. She also shows how forgiveness, faith, and personal resilience carried her through. Early on, Willie calls her a “heroine,” and readers will agree with that assessment. One of Kirkus and Rolling Stone’s Best Music Books of 2020.

A shift in perspective makes a familiar story seem fresh all over again.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984854-13-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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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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