Posts Tagged With: Alina Simone

“Madonnaland” — Rolling Stone digs it, too

“Madonnaland: And Other Detours Into Fame and Fandom,” the wonderfully quirky Madonna quasi-biography penned by the great Alina Simone, is shaping up as one of the most acclaimed books we’ve published with the American Music Series. On the heels of year-end honors from National Public Radio, “Madonnaland” has earned a spot in Rolling Stone’s “10 Best Music Books of 2016” list — alongside Bruce Springsteen’s memoir “Born to Run,” Bob Mehr’s Replacements tome “Trouble Boys” and other notable titles. Jason Diamond calls “Madonnaland” a “fuller, weirder and more interesting overview of Madonna than we may have thought possible.” Check the full entry here.


Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NPR’s year-end visit to “Madonnaland”

Hearty congratulations of the season go out to Alina Simone, whose American Music Series title “Madonnaland: And Other Detours Into Fame And Fandom” has picked up some pretty exquisite year-end love from National Public Radio. NPR included “Madonnaland” in its Book Concierge listing of 2016’s best books, with book critic Michael Schaub pronouncing it “wonderful” — and I quite agree. The full blurb is below.


Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Madonna and Mary J. Blige: Lots more drama, coming right up

The American Music Series I co-edit for University of Texas Press marches on with our newest releases, a pair of titles due out on the first of March — and they’ll definitely break us out well beyond anything like Americana. So keep an eye out for two books I’m proud to have been involved with, “Madonnaland And Other Detours into Fame and Fandom” by the fabulous Alina Simone; and “Real Love, No Drama: The Music of Mary J. Blige” by Kansas City-based author Danny Alexander. Now I’ve got two more reasons to obsessively check amazon every day.

Meantime, next up on the American Music Series docket will be T Bone Burnett, coming this fall.

ADDENDA: An actual New York Times review of “Madonnaland,” plus an excerpt on LitHub and a most-excellent PopMatters review. Also from PopMatters, a Blige review.



Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Alina Simone’s ray of light

UTP2016As noted here before, the road from proposal to publication is a long one when you’re working with a university press. It’s a several-year process that comes with a number of milestones that include several stages of editing, editorial approval and the cover. One of the last steps before a book actually appears is enshrinement in the catalog, and it just so happens that the Spring/Summer 2016 University of Texas Press catalog arrived in my mail today — including entries given over to a couple of American Music Series titles, Danny Alexander’s Mary J. Blige book and Alina Simone’s “Madonnaland And Other Detours into Fame and Fandom” (both due out in March).

Along with a very nice Amanda Palmer blurb, “Madonnaland” also has an enthusiastic endorsement from best-selling author Ben Greenman:

Alina Simone’s critical (and hilariously self-critical) look at pop culture, ambition, identity, and the strange things that can happen when art meets time is, if you’ll pardon the expression, a ray of light.



Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Coming in March: Madonnaland, and The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul

MadonnalandI’ve had a blast on the “Comin’ Right at Ya” promotional front this month, including a very nice event Wednesday night at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh that drew a kindly attentive full house. I read a bit, took questions and repeated some of Ray Benson’s jokes, which tend to be a lot funnier than my own jokes, so it worked out great. Of course, I also couldn’t let the crowd go without getting in a plug for Kristin Hersh’s “Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt.” I even told them that if they could only buy one book, it should be that one instead of mine (sorry, Ray, but know that we sold plenty anyway).

Everyone in the University of Texas Press orbit is still pulling for “Don’t Suck, Don’t Die” and the rest of our current titles to break out. Hope springs eternal, but pretty much all of that is out of our hands at this point. Meantime, work continues on getting the next round of American Music Series books out into the world. Coming in March are two books that will, at the very least, break us out beyond the Americana universe; and we have final titles and cover art on both.

MJB“Madonnaland And Other Detours into Fame and Fandom” is the third book by the fabulous Alina Simone, with a nice pink cover and a terrific testimonial blurb at the bottom from cabaret icon Amanda Palmer. You probably can’t read that here without a magnifying glass, so I’ll spare you the trouble:

“A profound and hilarious stream-of-consciousness funfair ride through the postmodern theme park of super fans, celebrity, taste, and capitalism.”

Nice! More to follow, I hope.

Alongside “Madonnaland” next spring, we’ll also have Danny Alexander’s “Real Love, No Drama: The Music of Mary J. Blige” (which, title aside, nevertheless has a very dramatic cover). I’d say this is the most ambitious critical appraisal of the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul’s catalog that any writer has ever attempted. And I can’t wait for other people to get to read both of these.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Also comin’ right at ya: “Madonnaland”

MadonnalandSo I’m gearing up for this October’s release of the Ray Benson/Asleep at the Wheel book, “Comin’ Right at Ya” — which is being published by University of Texas Press, but is not actually part of the UT Press American Music Series that I co-edit. Things are coming along on various fronts with the AMS, too, including two very fine books coming out this fall. I’m especially psyched to see the reaction to Kristin Hersh’s “Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt,” a book I think is scary good.

Looking forward to next year, spring 2016 will bring the publication of the series’ first venture outside the Americana universe with “Madonnaland and Other Detours Into Fame and Fandom.” It’s the third book by the fabulous Alina Simone; here on the right is the title-page design, which I find quite elegant and cool-looking.

Alina put a huge amount of work into “Madonnaland,” which I had the pleasure of co-editing. Her manuscript improved immensely from draft to draft, and it was well worth the effort because we’re all really proud of the result. It’s an ambitious book that’s less about Madonna than the nature of fandom, tribalism and obsession, all of which she ties together with aplomb. Alina being Alina, the writing is fantastic, of course (and if you’ve never read her first book, you need to rectify that right now).

This is gonna be good.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hello in there: More From UT Press

PrineEddie“Ryan Adams: Losering, A Story of Whiskeytown” was published in the fall of 2012 as the second book in University of Texas Press’ American Music Series (following Don McLeese’s “Dwight Yoakam: A Thousand Miles From Nowhere”), and it’s taken a while for us to get it going. As originally envisioned, we’re supposed to be putting out four AMS titles a year — two every spring, two every fall. Some right fine books have come out on Merle Haggard in 2013 and the Flatlanders in 2014, but we haven’t been able to maintain that schedule. Finally, however, we’ve found our footing enough that the pace of publication is about to pick up.

First off, the next American Music Series book coming out will be “John Prine: In Spite of Himself” by my fellow North Carolina music journalist Eddie Huffman. The official publication date is March 15, and it’s our series’ first book to come out in a hardcover version (also, it’s the first with an actual photograph of the subject on the cover). I was one of this book’s primary editors and the process wasn’t always easy. As Eddie writes of me in the book’s acknowledgements, tongue planted firmly in cheek, “He and I are probably both glad he won’t have to ask me ‘How are the rewrites coming?’ next time we cross paths at Cat’s Cradle or the PNC Arena.”

UTPressLogoBut my peskiness and his hard work paid off with a book we’re all quite proud of. And so far, the early pre-release response has been gratifying indeed. “In Spite of Himself” picked up a very fine review in Publishers Weekly, which also named it one of this spring’s most-anticipated books. Kirkus weighed in with a nice review, too, and there are a number of other reviews and reading-type events in the works as well. Eddie’s blog will be the place to keep up with all of that, so bookmark it. I think Eddie did a fantastic job on this book, and I hope you’ll like it.

Beyond that, here’s what else is on the AMS schedule so far:

October 2015

“Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt,” by Kristin Hersh
“Los Lobos: Dream in Blue,” by Chris Morris

Spring 2016

“Madonnaland,” by Alina Simone
Mary J. Blige (title to come), by Danny Alexander

Fall 2016

T-Bone Burnett (title to come), by Lloyd Sachs

Spring 2017

Chrissie Hynde (title to come), by Adam Sobsey

To be scheduled

Tom Jones (title to come), by Jon Langford

The book on the list I’m most excited about is “Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt” by Kristin Hersh, leader of the band Throwing Muses and one of Chesnutt’s closest friends. I was blown away when I saw her manuscript because it’s spine-tinglingly brilliant, the best book of any sort I’ve read in years. Seriously, it gave me chills. I’m thrilled to be a part of that one, and I can’t wait for everyone else to read it.

Meanwhile, you might notice that yours truly is not on the AMS schedule anywhere. But I do have a book coming out on UT Press in October, one I think turned out really well. It’s called “Comin’ Right at Ya: How a Jewish Yankee Hippie Went Country, or, the Often Outrageous History of Asleep at the Wheel,” which I co-wrote with Asleep at the Wheel founder and guiding light Ray Benson. I’ll have more to say about this project later, but for now there’s a bit more about it here.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

News about the American Music Series, and me — I’ll be Asleep At The Wheel

So “Losering” is still semi-current and getting some attention here and there; I’m curious to see whether or not the next Ryan Adams album (whenever one emerges) might generate some more interest. But the book has been out there for more than six months, which means it’s high time to move along to the next thing. I’m happy to have some news about that, as well as the University of Texas Press American Music Series.

RayBensonMy next book will be co-writing a memoir with Ray Benson, founder and guiding light of the Western swing band Asleep At The Wheel, and it’s a project I could not be more excited about. I grew up in Texas during the ’70s progressive-country era, and I wrote my UT Master’s thesis about the Armadillo World Headquarters. I’ve always had a soft spot for that era’s icons, and as icons go Ray is one of the best — a fantastic musician and raconteur who, as the saying goes, has been around the world twice and talked to everybody at least once. This should be a raucous good time.

So that’s what I’ll be working on for the next year or so. While the Benson book is also for UT Press, this one won’t actually be part of the UT Press American Music Series. But work there continues apace. As mentioned previously, David Cantwell’s “Merle Haggard: The Running Kind” is next up, out in September, to be followed by John T. Davis’s “The Flatlanders: One More Road” in 2014. I’ve been asked to keep mum about several other titles in the works, but here are the ones in the pipeline that I can tell you about:

Los Lobos, by Chris Morris
John Prine, by Eddie Huffman
Vic Chesnutt, by Kristin Hersh
Ray Charles, by David Cantwell
Mary J. Blige, by Danny Alexander
Madonna, by Alina Simone

Obviously, the last two names are what jump off that list, possibly leaving you to wonder what the heck is going on here. Thus far the American Music Series has had an Americana focus, which is not surprising given that it’s an outgrowth of No Depression magazine. But the series is still developing an identity, and the truth is that we were always going to have to broaden it in terms of both styles and approaches to make it work. Thus, Mary J. Blige and Madonna.

UTPressLogoNow it’s certainly possible that American Music Series might eventually come to mean just “books about music.” Nevertheless, even though Blige and Madonna are both outliers (and probably as far as I’d care to go in this direction), I think you can build a case for both being a better fit than they might seem at first glance. Blige, The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, is firmly grounded in the r&b tradition, and I’ve always thought of her as more soul than hip-hop. A decade from now, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if she were singing straight-up gospel because such an evolution would make perfect sense.

That brings us to Madonna, who is admittedly more of a stretch. But I think the real draw here will be Alina Simone, one of the most exciting new writers out there. I first met Alina a few years back when she lived in Chapel Hill and was playing intriguingly dark indie-rock along the lines of Cat Power and PJ Harvey. She really found her voice on 2008’s Everyone Is Crying Out To Me, Beware, a tribute album to the late “Yanka” (Soviet-era punk icon Yana Stanislavovna Dyagileva, who is Russia’s answer to Patti Smith). Sung entirely in Russian, Beware is a fascinating album with an even-more-fascinating back-story; you can read some of it here or here. Better still, read Alina’s wonderful 2011 memoir “You Must Go and Win.”

If Steve Earle, Jon Langford or another writerly Americana icon wanted to write a book for our series, I think we’d jump at the chance even if the subject they proposed fell outside the Americana universe. While Alina doesn’t have as high a musical profile as those two, she’s still part of this century’s indie-rock flock — someone that No Depression probably would have been reviewing if the magazine were still publishing when Beware came out. I think Alina’s idiosyncratic take on a cultural icon like Madonna will make for a great book. I can’t wait to read what she comes up with, and to be a part of sharing it with you.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Create a free website or blog at