My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
This is a short but profound meditation on the moments that can bring a sense of reconciliation and redemption to our lives, and how we misunderstand or misinterpret even those we are closest to. I remain somewhat mystified as to why he chose to base this, however loosely, on actual historical persons, or why he dislocated them in time from their actual historical dates. For that matter, I remain mystified as to why the book's internal timeline refuses to behave itself. None of this detracts from the beauty and concision of this gem of a book.
The recording has mysteries of its own. Sam Waterston is a fine actor and his reading is full of expressive nuances, but for some reason the sound is muddy. I can't tell if this is because it's an old transfer from tape, or if Mr. Waterston's voice is pitched oddly, or because he lacks that special clipped diction that makes other readers more listenable. Maybe my hearing is just suffering from old age.
Geez, 3 hours is hardly more than a short story. Well, it's a powerful little book, but clearly the work of a young man. Part of the continuum in counterculture literature that began in the 1940s and had its zenith in the 1960s before petering out into new age pablum on one side and left wing diatribes on the other. This book was written with all the sincerity and passion of its times. I suppose it's essential reading to anyone who wants to get the full flavor of that era, but it's only one slice of the whole picture. Probably it should be read at different times of ones life because I guarantee you will see it differently at 20 than you will at 50.
That's a harsh characterization that is as true as it is misleading. It's true because Wolfe has written a book so deeply steeped in the specific era it was written that it only makes sense in that one context. It's also a tawdry story of little lasting literary merit. It's misleading because that tawdry story does in fact have elements of the universal in it, plus that plethora of 1980s cultural references makes it a charming time capsule of what things were like. This is a terrifically entertaining book. It's a vivid reminder of how much things are still the same and how much things have changed. Joe Barrett does a terrific job of getting all the voices and accents down right. Wolfe does a terrific job of portraying all the different agendas and the ambiguity of how a single version of the facts can be perceived so very differently by all the parties involved.