Picks and Pans Review: Willie

updated 12/19/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/19/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Willie Nelson with Bud Shrake

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be autobiographers. Especially if they're going to write such preachy, shallow autobiographical drivel as this. As one of today's preeminent popular musicians, a man whose widely chronicled rise to fame has been uncommonly eccentric, who is three times married and the father of five, Nelson certainly has plenty to talk about. But he brushes over most of his life's essential events. When he was a toddler, his parents divorced and both ran off, leaving him and his sister Bobbie with their grandparents, but Willie never discusses how that desertion felt to him. He acknowledges having betrayed all three of his wives, yet never talks in any substantial way about how he felt when this was going on—what he thought, for instance, about how his family's future would be affected by his philandering. He barely touches on his relationships with his children. Instead, Nelson delivers a number of mystical lectures about the universe: "There are countless planets full of life out there among the stars. How do I know? I've been there. So have you." He includes a seven-page reading of his horoscope by astrologer Diane Eichenbaum, who notes that Pluto (the planet, not the dog) "opposes" Willie's sun and "when Pluto comes in it is like the IRS or something you can't do anything about. It is also a Mafia. Pluto is anything that is subversive." Then there's this revelation about babies: "They may be very small people, but they are real, and they require a lot of attention." Talking about farm problems, he says, "When people made $15 and $20 a week, beef was 37¢ a pound. Now it's still 37¢ a pound and people are making $500 a week," which could well start a run on the meat department of whatever supermarket he's going to. Nelson also prates on about the importance of Karma in his life and makes the astonishing statement that "right now, more than half the people in the country believe in reincarnation." He touts the value of using marijuana, which he says is "like sex. If I don't do it every day, I get a headache." LSD, he adds, "was a step in awakening our consciousness to prepare people for the spiritual evolution of the Age of Aquarius. The young hippies who were high on acid, some of them are in important places today with their understanding expanded by their acid experiences." The most restraint Willie shows is when he says, "I talk to God all the time" but spares his readers by not including transcripts of the conversations. The book is also a monument to insensitivity. While Nelson at times is ostentatiously open-minded, pointing out that he would be very pleased if it turned out that he had been born with Mexican blood and saying that people who work at such jobs as farming and hod-carrying "fill me with awe," he can also do such things as refer to one of his ex-wives as a "a piece of ass." He can advise, "What I am saying to all you songwriters is to get yourself a good Jewish lawyer before you sign anything." Poodie Locke, Nelson's stage manager, says that men who don't like Nelson are "stuff-in-the-muds, bureaucratic assholes and chicken dicks." The comments from Nelson's friends and often gushing, gosh-all-good-ole-boy admirers are occasionally enlightening—his first two wives are included, though the most recently bitter Mrs. Nelson, Connie, did not contribute. Shrake, a former SPORTS ILLUSTRATED writer turned novelist and screenwriter, apparently shares Nelson's predilection for occult notions and macho blather. Their collaboration, in any case, produced many, many words and very little enlightenment. (Simon and Schuster, $19.95)

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