There must be some interesting stories in a life as eventful as Merle Haggard’s, not that you’d know it from My House Of Memories, Haggard’s second autobiography. Most of the major events of Haggard’s colorful life were documented in a 1982 autobio, Sing Me Back Home, and this volume covers much of the same ground as that superior work. Not only does My House … reveal almost nothing about this major country music figure that is either new or interesting, the narrative is choppy and disjointed, giving the impression of listening to someone tell his life story, extemporaneously, possibly over too many drinks. Haggard’s lack of context or continuity is like watching a slide show of his life without any explanation of the images and the slides in random order in the carousel.
While Haggard does take up his story where his previous volume left off, he seems primarily interested in using this book to belittle some of the many people who, he believes, have done him wrong. Notable among this group is the woman he refers to throughout as “wife number three,” the only one of his four ex-spouses he truly resents (The fact that he has four exes suggests that he might bear at least a bit of responsibility in the failure of those relationships). Haggard’s attitude toward adversaries such as his numbered ex-wife comes across as disappointingly petty for a man who seems intent on also conveying what a hard-bitten man he became while spending his youth hopping freight trains and escaping from jails.
This pettiness is at odds with the book’s apparent larger purpose: to confess and atone for the excesses that occupied much of Haggard’s life in the years since his previous book. He acknowledges that he will be ashamed when his children read this book, and it is admirable that he goes on to come clean about the low points of his life. On the other hand, Haggard never seems particularly repentant about his life of dissipation before marrying fifth wife, Theresa. He seems most interested in detailing how characters like Buck Owens, “wife number three,” and various music business figures all have mistreated him. Too much of My House Of Memories is occupied with this kind of carping, which seems beneath someone of Haggard’s stature, or of anyone who expects the public to invest their time and money in his book, frankly.
It is disappointing that Haggard—one of country music’s most influential and fascinating characters—chose to use this forum to settle old scores rather than add detail to the story of his life. The book’s deficiencies are obvious when, more than halfway into it, Haggard has recounted numerous crimes, jailings, and escapes, yet only one musical performance. As his comparison of himself to Job (the one from The Bible, not the Arrested Development character) would indicate, with My House Of Memories, Haggard is more interested in talking about his personal grievances than his considerable accomplishments.