PositiveWall Street JournalThe world is thick with commentators who are indistinguishable, in their pretensions to glamour and wisdom, from the political knaves that inspire their furious discourse...The late and legendary Art Buchwald (1925-2007), the subject of Michael Hill’s admiring biography, Funny Business, was cut from a different cloth...Short and a bit of a pudge, he primarily wrote satirical newspaper columns...He wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth, though he parked seven or eight cigars there most days...His praises are well worth singing...Mr. Hill, a historical researcher who has worked with a wide range of luminaries, including John McCain, Walter Mondale and Ken Burns, begins with Buchwald’s recollection of his rough start...Yet Buchwald had big dreams...He joined the Marines at 17, seeing action in the Marshall Islands during World War II, then used the GI Bill at the University of Southern California and for a study program that took him to Paris...Mr. Hill tells us that Buchwald harvested plenty of bucks, both from his column (and column collections) and from the lecture circuit...By the late 1970s, his annual salary was around $2 million in today’s dollars...There was a dark lining to his golden cloud, including hospitalization for depression and the collapse of his marriage.
PanThe Wall Street JournalSome readers may detect a slight whiff of smugness, and as the pages turn (there are more than 300 of them) they may soon conclude that Mr. Offerman can be far more political than pastoral. He vigorously lashes the infidels, including Brett Kavanaugh, Kit Carson, the country singer Lee Greenwood, Donald Trump and Trump’s red-capped followers ... Yet at other times he’s a font of nondenominational wisdom ... Not that all Mr. Offerman’s lashes fall on the backs of political adversaries. He engages in gentle self-flagellation, confessing to white privilege and even calling himself a \'racist\' due to environmental factors...perhaps affirming that self-effacement can be the sincerest (and subtlest) form of flattery ... A book without a bit of socially conscious moral flashing, condescension, smugness and the denunciation of sinners would feel out of step. It might even be totally ignored ... most people have a hard time reading when they’re rolling their eyes.
PositiveWall Street JournalWillie Nelson’s Letters to America, is a mix of mash notes, fond memories, a hill-country homily or two, and some world-class examples of filler material, including this gem, one of a series of gag-worthy jokes ... But Mr. Nelson’s fans won’t mind. They’ll also enjoy his retellings of fabled events from his life ... What fans and other readers will cherish most is the tone of the project, alternately raucous, reverent and bittersweet.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalMr. Cox has a wry touch—young workers at Telluride \'looked simultaneously wholesome and grungy, like the black sheep in a Mormon family\'—and a good eye for detail ... Mr. Cox sums up his book in seven words: \'Set a deadline, the earlier the better.\' Valuable advice, no doubt. Many readers will also appreciate learning that they’ve been suffering from “hyperbolic discounting” all these years, when they had simply assumed they were mere slackers.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal... fascinating ... Mr. Hill tells a lively tale, reminding us that it’s a lot more fun reading about vice than virtue.
Matthew B Crawford
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal... a thoughtful, entertaining and substantive work about the joys of driving—and about the attempts by various scolds torelegate that joy, and similar expressions of independence, to the junkyard of history ... The chapter titles in Why We Drive reveal an instinctive skepticism and pleasant pugnaciousness ... [Crawford] can be evangelical at times ... Mr. Crawford is at his best rattling the smug beliefs of \'bicycle moralists, electric scooter gliders-about, and carbon teetotalers,\' not to mention safety nags, whose mission in life is to pour their enlightened sugar into renegade gas tanks.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalThe heart leaps at the chance to shift attention from epidemics, recession and state-sponsored snitching back to more intimate and familiar dissolutions, including serial adultery, virtuoso drunkenness and unscheduled tooth removal via sucker punch. Country-music legend Loretta Lynn’s Me and Patsy Kickin’ Up Dust is rich in those traditional themes. It’s also a quick and illuminating read ... Ms. Lynn, now 88, offers a heartfelt and often rollicking remembrance of her friendship with the late Patsy Cline, perhaps the greatest country singer ever... Ms. Lynn tells her story without literary flourish, sometimes including grammatical improvisations that will make pedantic blood boil. I’ve wrote a lot of songs,” she reports early on. Still, daughter and singer-songwriter Patsy Lynn Russell has knocked the book into a breezy memoir. What it lacks in pretension it makes up for in brevity. Several chapters are only a few pages, but like a tight country lyric their success doesn’t depend on syllabic excess ... A diva’s work is never done. Women make up only 16% of country artists and 12% of country songwriters, Ms. Lynn reports, \'which \'just ain’t right.\' Besides encouraging young artists, she offers a short list of essential Cline songs to keep her friend’s music alive.
A J Jacobs
MixedThe Wall Street JournalSlim and less introspective ... [A] pleasant ode to interdependency, reminding us that much of our happiness relies on people we don’t know. That’s not music to the ears the autonomous souls who believe they reside at the center of the universe but is a blessed alternative to the monsoon of seasonal dreck that threatens to drown us all.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalThe new NFL season has commenced with the usual hoopla, though some fans are finding new things to do on Sunday afternoon. Their disaffection isn’t just about kneeling, which is as easy to ignore as other celebrity pose-striking. The game seems flat, perhaps due to efforts to remove risk with new rules and more penalty flags. Watching a game can set the teeth to grinding, especially when advertising time-outs seem longer than the first half of Gone With the Wind. Meanwhile, ticket, beer and parking prices make stadium-goers wonder if they could have saved money by opting for a weekend in Paris. So pro football is ripe for revolution. Luckily, Jeff Pearlman’s Football for a Buck offers a blueprint for change, based on the United States Football League, which played three semi-glorious seasons starting in 1983. The book will also please readers who sip bad ink about Donald Trump as if it were the finest wine.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalJorma Kaukonen isn’t quite so famous as some of his musical peers, a group that includes Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia and Jimi Hendrix. Yet unlike those eminences and many others, Mr. Kaukonen—a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame guitarist best known for his work with Jefferson Airplane—has hung around. Still touring as he approaches 80, he has now written an engaging memoir that will interest even those who wouldn’t know Hot Tuna (his current band) from a can of sardines.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal[Lingan] finds dignity and even heroism in the lives of those in its orbit and reminds us, on every page, that the times are always a-changing, though often not for the better ... he is at his most passionate when depicting the \'constant collision\' between the past and modernity and between the powerful and those who are displaced by economic and cultural shifts ... Mr. Lingan’s rollicking descriptions of honky-tonk nights are so booze-soaked that a reader might wonder about the safety of driving after reading such passages.
Benjamin K. Bergen
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal...words and deeds that formerly raised eyebrows soon begin to lower them to doze position, though Mr. Bergen does perk things up a bit by including photographs of people cussing in sign language ... Bergen includes interesting facts about organs other than those associated with the body’s exhaust or reproductive systems ... [Bergen] believe[s] that profanity can be unparalleled in its expressive powers and even work physical wonders.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalMr. Oldstone-Moore gives several indications that he aced Academic Jargon 101—'the language of facial hair is built on the contrast of shaved and unshaved'—but he also presents a pleasant survey of beard knowledge with a wry sense of humor, starting with a trip back to the dawn of humanity, when beards evolved 'because our prehistoric female ancestors liked them.'