Tammy Wynette: Tragic Country Queen

Destitute, but fizzing and sparking with high-voltage ambition, Virginia Wynette Pugh -- born in 1942, married at 17, mother of three (and eventually four) -- began her ascent to becoming the First Lady of Country in 1966 when she was signed for Epic Records in Nashville by Billy Sherrill.  He bought her a long blond wig, renamed her Tammy Wynette, and set her to sing "Apartment No. 9."   Her powerful, pain-drenched voice and perfect sense of phrasing brought the song to the threshold of the charts.  The Grammy Award winning, "I Don't Wanna Play House" came the year after and in 1967 she recorded the iconic "Stand by Your Man" -- just as her second husband (of five) was divorcing her for running off with George Jones.  Her eventual marriage to that notorious hell-raiser and singing genius was the very stuff of country music.  Volcanic and wretched, it inspired some of the couple's best songs, both solo and duo, earning her the additional moniker of "Domestic grief goddess."


McDonough bangs his way through Wynette's life and career with a yakky zeal that is more suited to a fanzine than a biography, unsparing though it is of the sad details of a drug-addicted, overwrought life.  "She was made miserable," observed her bus driver, "other than that, she loved life."   Wynette's last husband, George Richey, isolated her from her friends, caused her to disinherit her own children, caroused as she was dying, and buried her among strangers.  "She doesn't even know anyone where she is,"  lamented George Jones.

April 16: ""Blue pottery vases and bowls for flowers are most attractive, and certain blue books...will repeat and emphasize color."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.