Books I Read This Month

It’s a Long Story: My Life by Willie Nelson. Copyright 2015.

This month, country super star Willie Nelson received a prestigious award from the Library of Congress along with Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, and Stevie Wonder. I thought it would be a good time to read his memoir.

He starts by talking about his early life growing up in Abbott, Texas, where he and his older sister Bobbi were raised by their grandparents because their parents, who were also musicians, did a lot of traveling. Willie took an interest in music at an early age. He describes how he felt after his grandfather died when he was about five or six. Soon after that, his grandmother made him sing a song at a church revival meeting. He was apparently so nervous that he picked his nose constantly before the performance, and by the time he got on the stage, blood was pouring out of his nostrils and onto his clean, white sailor suit. That earned him the nickname Booger Red.

As a teen-ager, he played in various bands that performed in bars and dance halls in the area. He curbed his grandmother’s disapproval of this by giving her the money he earned. His sister Bobbi became proficient at the piano while he played the guitar, and they often played together, even as adults.

After graduating from high school, Willie went to work trimming trees but gave up on that when he fell out of one. He then entered the Air Force in the hope of being a pilot in the Korean War but washed out a year or so later.

After returning home, he married the first of four wives, a waitress at a drive-in restaurant. She gave birth to three children, and the family traveled around Texas, California, and Oregon where Willie worked as a disc jockey and at other odd jobs and performed in various night clubs. Eventually, they settled in Nashville, Tennessee, where he got a job as a songwriter at a local music publishing house. That was when his career took off.

He then describes the next five decades of his career: what inspired him to write and record many of his songs and albums, associating with Waylon Jennings, Chris Christofferson, Johnny Cash, and others, the purchase of a myriad of properties in Tennessee, Texas, Colorado, and Hawaii, and his movie career. He describes his divorce from his first wife and his marriages to and divorces from two other wives before finally settling down with a make-up artist at one of the locations where he was filming in the 1990’s. He talks about giving up alcohol in 1971 after releasing “Whiskey River” and his continued use of marijuana. He explains how he wormed his way out of scrapes with the law as a result of his drug use and avoided many unhappy returns from the IRS by giving them all the proceeds from some of his concerts.

In the end, he talks about pot and his opinion of the music industry. He believes marijuana should be legalized and isn’t bothered by the fact that nowadays, with the use of music subscription services online, record sales are down. He never depended on royalties from the sale of his records but on the sale of tickets to his concerts. If people listen to his music on computers or smart phones, and that inspires them to hear him in person, that makes him happy.

The recording of this book I downloaded was produced by Hachette Audio. Although Willie doesn’t read the entire book in this recording, he narrates the introduction at the beginning, and at the end, there’s a recording of him singing one of his songs, “It’s a Long Story: My Life,” the same title as the memoir. To me, this isn’t as good as his other songs such as “Pauncho and Lefty,” “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before,” and all the songs from Stardust, my favorite Willie Nelson album which I still have on cassette.

On April 29th, 2015, Willie Nelson turned 82. One thing he loves to do is travel so here’s a song that illustrates this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBN86y30Ufc . Willie Nelson is still on the road.

***

Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir by Linda Ronstadt. Copyright 2013.

Linda Ronstadt details her life from her birth and childhood in Tucson, Arizona, to her life as a singer in Los Angeles and New York, to her retirement. She talks about her childhood in Arizona: receiving her first pony at the age of five, her mother becoming paralyzed from the waist down, attending a parochial school, making music with her family, and how her music was influenced by her Mexican heritage and such artists as Frank Sinatra. When she decided to move to Los Angeles after graduating from high school in the 1960’s, her father presented her with his guitar and pointed out that as long as she had an instrument, she wouldn’t be hungry.

She then goes on to talk about her career over the next few decades until her last performance in 2009. She explains how her first band, The Stone Ponies, was formed and then describes how she performed with the Eagles and then a myriad of other artists including Emmie Lou Harris and Dolly Parton. She explains how her style evolved from country and rock to old standards and Mexican music.

There are a couple of things I didn’t like about the book. First of all, Linda tells her story mostly as a narrative with little dialog. Although I found her experiences fascinating, it would have been nice if she did more showing and less telling. Also, at the end of the book, she says that she lives in Tucson, Arizona, with her two children who are transitioning from being teen-agers to adulthood. I would like to have known if these children were her own or if she adopted them. If they were her own, who was their father?

The book also includes a discography that lists all the albums she recorded through the years. As a teen-ager, I listened to many of these albums on eight-track tape including Heart Like a Wheel and Prisoner in Disguise. In the 1980’s, I had a cassette recording of What’s New, her first album of old standards. Today, I still have on CD her first trio album with Dolly Parton and Emmie Lou Harris and Cansiones de Mis Padres, her first recording of Mexican songs.

My favorite Linda Ronstadt tune is “Heart Like a Wheel.” In the book, she describes how she fell in love with the song. I can see why. It touched me when I was thirteen, and today, it reminds me of my love for my late husband Bill and how I lost him. To hear it, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OABmOJdMoU .

***

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

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I Remember

In my childhood,

I helped Mother in the house,

went to school, was praised by teachers,

threatened with an eighteen-inch ruler,

played with siblings and friends,

was harassed by schoolyard bullies.

 

As a teen-ager, I went to high school,

to the prom, graduated.

 

In my adult years, I went to college,

got a job, was married.

 

When I grow old,

can’t see, hear, or walk,

depend on others,

I’ll remember my life.

***

This is the last poem in my collection, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. To hear me read it and sing a song about an old cat remembering her younger years, visit https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/i%20remember-memory.mp3 .

***

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

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7 Best Things to See & Do in Walnut Grove, Minnesota

abbiejohnsontaylor:

A while back on this blog, I reviewed material by and about Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane. Now, here’s an article about Walnut Grove, the town in Minnesota where Laura Ingalls Wilder did some of her growing up.

Originally posted on The Cottonwood Tree:

It’s easy to characterize Walnut Grove as just another sleepy town in south western Minnesota. On the surface, there is little to distinguish it from other villages in the region. There’s a water tower, a small diner and the ubiquitous railway line. Peak hour traffic and traffic lights are non-existent. But dig a little deeper and you’ll discover that Walnut Grove has special literary and historical significance. As the former childhood home of pioneer author, Laura Ingalls Wilder, the town offers more for visitors than is immediately apparent. Instead of driving straight ahead, slow down and take the turn into town. In doing so, you’ll discover plenty of ways to spend a full day in the real locale that inspired the famous Little House® book, On the Banks of Plum Creek.

Walnut Grove is located on Highway 14, approximately 3 hours drive west of Minneapolis.  It is the childhood home of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Laura Ingalls Wilder never mentioned the town of Walnut Grove by name in her books, but in 1974 when…

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At the Graveside

A cold, windy November morning,

the sun provides little warmth

as we sit in chairs under an awning.

In the casket, he lies,

not a wretch, but a man I love,

his passing my life’s eclipse.

***

This poem appears in That’s Life: New and Selected Poems. Click the link below to hear me read it and sing a song I sang at my late husband’s graveside almost three years ago.

***

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/at%20the%20graveside.mp3

***

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

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A Seasonal Parody

Summer is already upon us, picnics, concerts in the park, parades, and of course love. One of the songs I sang when I worked as a registered music therapist in a nursing home was about strolling down a shady lane, holding hands with the one you love and that person being your tootsie wootsie. To hear a barbershop version, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKvLCwInPGA .

I recently came up with a parody while out walking. You can click on the link below to hear me sing it. Because of my limited vision, I use a cane. Others who are blind or visually impaired walk with dogs.

***

In the good old summertime, in the good old summertime,

strolling down the shady lane with my cane divine,

I hold its handle and swing as I walk, and that’s a very good sign

that it will guide me safely in the good old summertime.

 

In the good old summertime, in the good old summertime, ruff ruff,

strolling down the shady lane with my doggy fine,

I hold his harness, and “forward” I say, and that’s a very good sign

that he will guide me safely in the good old summertime, ruff ruff.

***

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/good%20old%20summertime%20parody.mp3 ***

What are your memories of summer?

***

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

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Amazon… A virtual marketplace, or Big Brother?

abbiejohnsontaylor:

It’ll be a cold day in Hell before I review books on Amazon unless they clarify the reason for this blogger being prohibited from reviewing books on their site.

Originally posted on imy santiago:

A couple of weeks ago I read the third installment of a series I really loved. I will refrain from sharing the name of the novel and its author.

Like any reader, as soon as I finished reading, I wrote my review. When I tried posting it on Amazon (I did buy the eBook, just like any normal and decent human being would), I received a rather concerning email.

I will not share the screenshot of the email as it does contain the title of the book and name of the author. In its place I have copied the body of the email below.

Dear Amazon Customer,

Thanks for submitting a customer review on Amazon. Your review could not be posted to the website in its current form. While we appreciate your time and comments, reviews must adhere to the following guidelines:
http://www.amazon.com/review-guidelines

Here I was, thinking I had included an…

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What I Read in June

Chasing Utopia: a Hybrid by Nikki Giovanni. Published by William Morrow, an Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, Copyright 2013.

 

This is a collection of the author’s poems and essays. Utopia, in this case, is actually a type of beer, and in the title piece, she talks about her search for this rare, expensive beverage. Other topics include black culture, hip hop music, family memories, poetry, and living alone. Although most of her essays were interesting, I was bored by a lot of her poems. They were just what I needed to put me to sleep on a Friday night in a strange motel room while attending a writers’ conference.

 

Where Aspens Quake by Tory Cates. Published 1983 by Simon & Schuster.

After photographer Christin Jonsson receives a negative review of her exhibit at an Albuquerque gallery, she quits her mindless job as a graphic designer, dumps her apathetic boyfriend, and flees to New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains where she is hired as a cross-country ski instructor at High Country Lodge. She falls for the establishment’s owner, Grayson Lowerey, but he turns away. His developmentally disabled daughter and past relationship with his ex-wife have created a barrier that Christin must help him overcome before the story can reach that happily ever after ending.

This book brought back memories of photography and skiing. My younger brother Andy dabbled in photography as a kid. Reading scenes where Christin is developing photos of mountain scenery in a rented dark room in Taos, I was reminded of the times I watched Andy develop pictures in an upstairs bathroom converted to a dark room. I also thought back to my two attempts at downhill and cross-country skiing during which I landed flat on my back and gave up. If I had an instructor like Christin, I might have succeeded. I liked the way she took the time to ensure each student’s success by starting them out on a level plain and then gradually increasing the route’s difficulty. In any case, during hot summer months, this book will refresh you.

 

Country Girl: A Memoir by Edna O’Brien. Copyright 2013.

 

Author Edna O’Brien talks about her life growing up in the Irish countryside before and during World War II and her life in Dublin where she apprenticed at a pharmacy and became involved in the theater and literary scene. She also describes how she married another writer against her family’s wishes, gave birth to two sons, and moved to London where she did most of her writing. She discusses the objections of Irish people to her novels and her husband’s resentment of her success as a writer and how that eventually led to a messy divorce. She then describes meeting such celebrities as Paul McCartney and Marlin Brando and other aspects of her writing life including how she wrote plays for stage and screen. That was about as far as I got before deciding not to finish the book.

Although I enjoyed Edna O’Brien’s reading of this book on a Hachette Audio recording, after her divorce, her experiences seem to become more and more bazaar. She describes a party during which a man offered to use an electric drill to bore a hole in her forehead and a session with a pseudo psychotherapist during which she and the man took LSD. After that, I decided enough was enough.

 

Wake the Dawn by Lorraine Snelling. Copyright 2013.

 

In the woods near the small town of Pineview, Minnesota, on the Canadian border, Ben, a patrol officer, finds an abandoned baby girl and takes her to a clinic run by Esther, a physician’s assistant. They work together to save the life of the baby and others in the wake of two severe storms that hit the town almost simultaneously, resulting in downed trees and power lines and damaged houses. Ben has turned to alcohol to help him cope with the death of his wife in a car accident. Esther suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of a hit and run. Eventually, the two of them help each other divest themselves of their emotional baggage and achieve that happily ever after romantic ending.

Once I started this book, it was hard to put down. I was not in danger of falling asleep while listening to this one, another Hachette Audio recording. Although it wasn’t read by the author, the narrator did an excellent job, even using a Minnesota accent with some of the characters’ voices.

However, this book contains some religious overtones I could have done without. The themes of forgiveness and trusting in God aren’t introduced until the middle of the story by the time you’ve gotten into it and absolutely must know how it ends. Had I know this, I might not have read the book. Otherwise, it’s a good story.
Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author,

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

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