Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!
Nora Ephron (1941 -2012) wrote the scripts for "When Harry Met Sally" (1989), "Sleepless in Seattle" (1993), and"You've Got Mail" (1998). I love these films, and I've seen them so many times I can say the lines along with the characters. Ephron's New York is a vibrant, colorful place full of native and transplanted New Yorkers who adore the city, from sidewalk trash pickup to astounding views from the tallest skyscrapers.
I've seen the movie version of "Heartburn" (1986). Meryl Streep is a true wonder - remember "Sophie's Choice" (1982)? And I truly forgot she wasn't really Julia Child in "Julie & Julia" (2009). I didn't like the movie version of "Heartburn," though - and I never read the 1982 book.
I did like the Audible of "Heartburn" very much. I remember that "Heartburn" was reviewed by a lot of critics as whiny and self absorbed when it was published 31 years ago, but today, it is snarkily amusing and a wry slice of the 80's. There's something sad and funny about a woman who renovates the couple's several homes, a cook book author with her own cooking show, who complains about being broke all the time - and is clueless that her feckless husband is carrying on an affair with the money going to expensive trips and gifts to his mistress. When Rachel Samstat finally looses it, she does it with memorable flare.
Ephron wrote "Heartburn" after a bitter end to her marriage to the philandering Carl Bernstein. Yes, the Bernstein, who along with Bob Woodward and a whistleblower code named "Deep Throat" exposed the Watergate crimes and brought down Richard M. Nixon's presidency. Bernstein referred to the whistleblower as "MF", and Ephron called her fictional wandering spouse "Mark Feldman." In 2005, the FBI agent who leaked information to Bernstein went public - Mark Felt. Ephron knew who Bernstein's informant was. Listening to "Heartburn," I wondered if she was covertly pointing at Felt.
Ephron turned what was a hushed scandal that had Washington DC society whispering its pity for her into a best selling book and a major motion picture. Now it's a wonderful Audible book, performed by Streep - who makes you forget she's not actually Rachel Samstat/Nora Ephron in the first five minutes.
The title of this review is an edited quote from a commencement speech Ephron gave at Wellesley in 1996. She said, "Above all else, be the heroine of your life , not the victim." That's what Ephron did with "Heartburn."
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I discovered Stephen King the summer I was 13 years old. I remember reading "The Shining" (1976), "'Salem's Lot" (1975), "Carrie" (1974), and "Night Shift" (1977) over a hot and humid week. When the weather broke one night with a spectacular summer thunderstorm, I woke up screaming, convinced that a long-dead priest was in my room.
Carrietta White and Danny Torrance psychic abilities - their shines - fascinated me. Wouldn't it be fun to make the tight Jordache jeans the tall blonde who was "going with" the boy I had a crush, on split the bottom of her jeans wide open, just as she tossed her perfectly feathered Farrah Fawcett hair? But Margaret White, Carrie's mother was a religious zealot; and Jack Torrance, Danny's father, was a raging alcoholic. Carrie and Danny didn't use their shine for fun, they used it because the people who loved them were murderous. Only Danny survived his childhood.
In 2001, about the time Danny is learning to become sober, Abra Stone is born into a family with two (mostly) normal parents and an adoring great grandmother. Abra shines, and shines brightly. Her parents realize it, and take an approach to the situation Andrew Solomon (Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity, 2012) would approve of: they have a pediatrician observe her, confirm what they know - and love and support her.
Danny has a great evil to fight - alcoholism. He started drinking at 13. It dulls his shine, and considering what he does for a living - he's an orderly at hospices, and he helps people pass on, who could blame him? But, as any alcoholic knows, Danny drinks because he is a drunk. King has been sober for 26 years, and writes about Alcoholics Anonymous - 'the program' - with the passion, clear head, and understanding of someone who knows the program far deeper than being able to recite the Serenity Prayer from memory. King's description of Danny's longing for a drink at a dive bar with neon lights advertising $2 pitchers was so vivid, in one of the most narratively tense parts of Doctor Sleep, I found myself thinking, "Don't do it Danny, don't do it!"
Danny and Abra have another, prescient and cannabalistic evil to fight - Rose the Hat and "The True Knot," a band of seemingly ordinary people criss-crossing the United States in those spectacularly expensive RVs you sometimes see on long drives on the 10 West, heading into Arizona; or parked in a Walmart lot, easily taking up a dozen parking places. The people in them look normal - even dull - but . . . and Rose and the True Knot are very, very old - because they take something from children with the shine.
Would I have enjoyed Doctor Sleep as much as I did if I hadn't read "The Shining," or for that matter, "Carrie"? I think I might have liked it even more, because I would have been truly surprised by the Overlook Hotel/Lodge - and frightened by the ghosts, maybe as I was that long ago summer.
I'm giving the audio a 4, not because Will Patton isn't a fantastic narrator - he is. He's got the characters to a t. When he was Dick Hallorann, I actually saw Scatman Crothers from the 1980 movie "The Shining" in my mind. However, there's a small portion of the narrative that is difficult to follow as an audio book. It sorts itself out eventually, but that's why I knocked a point off.
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Audible has its way of pulling you into unexpected stories. One day, "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time" (2003) popped up for the price of a latte. I think it's meant to be 'Young Adult', a genre I don't usually read - but it had awesome reviews. I skipped Starbucks, had black coffee at the office, and bought the book.
I'm a huge fan of Temple Grandin, the autistic author of, most recently, "The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum" (2013). Dr. Grandin thinks differently than neuro-typical people and does a great job at describing that. So does Mark Haddon in "The Curious Incident".
Christopher Boone, a brilliant mathematician hates the colors yellow and brown, and is in a 'special school' to help him lean, among other things, to understand what the expressions on people's faces mean. The book starts with Chapter 2 (on purpose, it's not an editing problem - and there's a good reason for it), when Christopher discovers Wellington, his neighbors' poodle, pitch forked to death.
Christopher is determined to solve the mystery, just like his one fictional hero, Sherlock Holmes. Christopher does, with the directness of someone with 'no filters', as well as the physical and mental pain 'no filters' for audio, visual and tactile senses causes. He is tenacious and brave - and while he doesn't say it, autistic. Like the best fiction, Haddon draws us into someone we aren't.
I know that this is Assigned Reading in a lot of English classes, and there are Themes and Meanings that are to be gleaned. I don't think Haddon meant to write an Important Book, I think he was writing a nifty story that turned out to have lessons. Enjoy the mystery first, and then worry about the message. The book quotes well - the title of this review is one.
The narration was good - I get a kick out of Jeff Woodman's English accent.
The book was worth a week of lattes. Or two. Or a month.
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