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 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."