A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
There isn't much better than "Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes" and "The Return of Sherlock Holmes". These stories show ACD at the top of his game. Like I mentioned in my review of Volume 1, the brilliance of Doyle's detective stories is they are universal, they are timeless and they are -- elementary.
While Doyle is a master of short stories, he isn't a consistent distance writer, and his previous longer pieces were usually a tad uneven (Study in Scarlet, Sign of Four). However, with "Hound of the Baskervilles", Doyle shows a marked improvement.
All-in-all this is a wonderful collection of some of Doyle's finest pieces. Definitely not to be missed. Griffin is a wonderful narrator for Sherlock Holmes. His range is impressive, yet he still manages to not hog the stage. His narration is varied, but still rather understated.
"What goes on inside is just too fast and huge and all interconnected for words to do more than barely sketch the outlines of at most one tiny little part of it at any given instant."
Let me get my biases out in the open. I love DFW. I have to be careful somedays to not fall-down and worship his novels. Wallace's nonfiction talent also hits me as evidence that the universe is not even slightly unfair. But, I've always been just a little unsettled (and occasionally freaked out) by his short stories. 'Oblivion', like his earlier story collections ('Brief Interviews with Hideous Men' and 'Girl with Curious Hair') is one of those tortured works of fiction that both attract and repel me at the same time. It is a little spooky how some of the stories ("Mister Squishy" and "Another Pioneer") anticipate his last unfinished novel 'The Pale King' while "Good Old Neon" was hard to listen even though it has been almost four years since his suicide. Anyway, these stories are quirky, stylized, experimental, and brilliant in their beauty and their suffering.
Robert Petkoff, who also narrated DFW's 'The Broom of the System', 'The Pale King', 'Girl with the Curious Hair', enunciates a Wallace sentence like it's his JOB.
This is one of those important novels I would have probably passed over or missed if Sherwood Anderson wasn't mentioned in so many lists--and if so many authors I admire (Faulkner, Hemingway, Steinbeck, O'Connor, McCarthy) didn't mention him as an influence or inspiration.
There is something beautiful about every single sentence that Anderson writes. Some of the stories in 'Winesburg, Ohio' (Death, Loneliness, the Strength of God, Godliness, and Adventure) were nearly perfect. Others, while they might not have hit me as hard as those five, were still almost uniformly beautiful and interesting. Like waves beating rhythmically against a wall, Anderson's stories seemed to gently deliver a message from the universe of the grotesque. Ideas of isolation, loneliness, love and the need to reach out to others (to find love or understanding) float from one story to the next and weave the various plots of the twenty-two short stories together. 'Winesburg, Ohio' is a great piece of American fiction and an amazing piece of 2oth century art.
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John Grey, a seemingly minor character encountered by the main protagonists of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, becomes a central character on his own in a series of short stories and books. He is a soldier, a gentleman, a noble man (in the original sense of the word), a sodomite, and an altogether human hero - often dragged into the heart of 18th century intrigues during the time surrounding the 7 Years War (French and Indian War to the Americans) in the years between the Scottish Jacobite Rising of 1745 and the American Revolution in 1776.
Readers of this series might give the Outlander series a miss, but you will lose out on serveral interactions between John and the Frasers that give a richer view of the character. The Outlander novels are a whopping 40 hours each on average, where LJ reads range between 1 and 14 hours.
You should definitely not read the Lord John series out of sequence to itself, which is easy to do accidentally since chronologically it alternates between shortstories and full length novels. Hand of the Devils contains three of the four current short stories, and while they are in order in this collection, make references to events in Private Matter and Brotherhood which leave the reader wanting to know what the heck happened though it does not have an immediate impact on the story.
As of October 2010, the order to read Lord John in is:
Hellfire (Hand of Devils); Private Matter (novel); Succubus (Hand of Devils); Brotherhood of the Blade(novel); Haunted Soldier (Hand of Devils); Custom of the Army (Warriors, Anthology); Scottish Prisoner (novel not yet released).