Willie Nelson with David Ritz

Pretty Paper: A Christmas Tale

Published by Blue Rider Press

Nov 14, 2016 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Pretty Paper, written by Willie Nelson with David Ritz, is a novel that uses as its jumping off point Nelson's 1963 song of the same name. In the book, as in the song, the protagonist comes upon a man selling wrapping paper and pencils outside a department store in the winter. Pretty Paper's pauper has his legs amputated. The man who encounters him is a musician. Nelson used real experience to craft his song, and Pretty Paper takes the idea one step further, imagining a backstory for the man that inspired the classic.

In Pretty Paper, the protagonist, a guise for Nelson himself, takes pity on the man, but when he returns to see him again, he finds the man is gone. In trying to track down the mysterious person, named Vernon Clay, the protagonist finds that Clay has left behind his life story, handwritten on different shades of colored paper depending on the content of the writing and the writer's mood at the time.

Nelson's tale goes back and forth between Clay's story and that of the book's protagonist. It turns out that Clay is also a musician, whose life has taken many terribly unfortunate turns. The protagonist tries to serve as Clay's redeemer of sorts.

Pretty Paper is far from a scholarly literary read. The text moves very quickly. It is matter of fact, without particular subtlety. The writing is simple. But by about halfway through, the reader finds him/herself drawn in to the tale, wanting to find out what has happened to Clay and how his story will resolve. One can read the book in little more than one sitting, so it doesn't take long to find out. There are no surprises at the end. But what Pretty Paper manages to do is serve as a redemptive Christmas parable, a tale of hope and realizing forgotten dreams. (www.willienelson.com) (www.penguinrandomhouse.com)

Author rating: 5.5/10

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