I am self-absorbed and...oh wait this isn't an e-mail to my therapist. hehe I love the Science and Technology section here, it's my favorite. I hope to write my reviews at least well enough to peek the interest of a few listeners to the point where they will shift their tastes more toward educational literature, knowing that(after receiving some insight from me) they can be just as entertaining, if not more so than mainstream fiction
This had me gripped! I truly loved this book. There are so many other stories that got me hooked but being one of the newer ones it was easier and more fun for me. So many parts lasso me in because of the incredible description but though the older books are good it was so much better with this one being able to relate to all of the technical and mechanical stuff described.
Tom Wolfe is top notch. Here is a fascinating story of race, politics, human capital, and the struggle of life, both ordinary and extraordinary, told from myriad perspectives. Nearly thirty years after its initial publication, the themes explored by the book will strike familiar chords in the wake of Enron, Lehman Brothers, and Anthony Wiener. The privileged screwing over the poor, self-destructive narcissism, the perils of ambition- all are present and examined with Wolfe's trademark low-key wit.
Ironic then that Joe Barrett's atrocious, arguably racist performance of the book will leave the listener scratching their head with questions related to the "post-racial" society in which it was recorded. White characters, including those with British, Bronx, and Yiddish accents are well within his wheelhouse and he performs these with aplomb. But when charged with rendering accurate portrayals of Blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities, Barrett reverts to a comical southern drawl somewhere between Foghorn Leghorn and Uncle Remus. If you doubt my assessment, simply listen to the first five minutes in which the put-upon Mayor of New York is lambasted by Harlem hecklers, rendered in a dialect that makes the Black Crows from "Dumbo" seem like Jane Elliott by comparison.
I don't blame Barrett; he's a decent reader. His other work is better and this book was a real challenge. But the producers at Blackstone should be ashamed. It is unbelievable that this recording was produced in 2009 and released as-is. There are plenty of other performers (Dion Graham comes to mind) who could have delivered a better experience. Then again, considering that most audiobook listeners are White, affluent, and well-educated (including yours truly), it's no big surprise that the production values mirror the general indifference of the target demographic.
But not all is lost. At first, I was annoyed that the performance was distracting me from the content of the novel. But then the failings of the recording began to mirror the issues raised in the novel and I came to enjoy, even relish the surreal, recursive experience. Marshall McLuhan was right- the medium is the message, and that message is Ouroboros the snake, choking on its own racist tail from high above the digital divide. Hooray for the future!
It's a page-turner, or the audible counterpart.
There are no positive characters. It's hard to really like any of them, yet that's part of the fun Sherman exhibits some nobility and some growth -- that's all we can expect.
Joe Barrett was absolutely fantastic. He did all accents excellently. Really brought the book to life.
Toward the end it looks as though the innocent will prevail -- but that's too much to hope for in Tom Wolfe's world where nobody is truly innocent. There's a Dostoevskian cast to this modern American novel.
I work. I ski. I play. I write. I have a family. I garden. I coach. I volunteer. I sketch. I run. I read.
I have not read the print version. I saw the movie after listening to the book. As usual, the book is better.
I like the intertwined lives of the characters.
I like Sherman McCoy's criminal attorney.
I have no extreme reaction. However, it is highly enjoyable.
I'm going to look up more Tom Wolfe books.
I just could not finish it. I got about halfway through the second part and found myself feeling like I was on a forced march going "let's just get this one over with." At that point, why finish it? I think the story has promised based on the movie. Unfortunately, Wolfe goes into so much excruciating and unnecessary detail on the most mundane points that you lose focus on the story. Throw in a terrible narrator who overdoes almost every character and I simply could not take it and said, "Next!" Based on my experience with "Man in Full" many years, I should have been wary of another Tom Wolfe book. I won't make the mistake again.
Obsessive reader, 6-10 books a week, chosen from Member reviews. Fact & fiction, subjects from the Tudors to Tookie, Harlem to Hiroshima, Huey Long to Huey Newton. In-depth fair reviews - from front to BLACK!!!
If this were not Tom Wolfe, I'd only rated this "1 star". Unfortunately "0" is not an option. This is a clear case in which "the messenger" (a/k/a narrator) SHOULD be killed! After over 100 audiobooks, I can tell you that a narrator can make or break a book, even classics and best-sellers. I listened to actor Elliot Gould completely ruin a Raymond Chandler work while "The Help" and "I, Claudius" were totally enhanced by the excellent narration. Here, we have a great story with a lot of drama, comedy and sub-plots made unbearable by the cartoonish reading of it. It starts out with a scene in which African-American's sound like a stereotypical merging of "jive turkeys" and a bunch of minstrel coons. Guess what? More of us talk like just YOU do in real life than we are given credit for in audiobooks! We aren't all loud and crass as depicted in those horrid Tyler Perry films. At least in the hard copy of this story, the reader isn't forced to listen to some narrow-minded narrator's ridiculous idea of how HE thinks black people sound. While this narrator is very good at mastering a lot of different voices for the kazillion characters in this book, his overall reading is too light and silly for the subject matter. His "sound effects" (crying, sneezing, laughing, snorting, etc.) are way over-done and disturbing to the ear, especially one held captive by an iPod earbud. One wonders if the editors LISTEN to these books once they are recorded or just shove them onto the public. I couldn't finish this book - I had to throw in the towel about 1/3 of the way in. Author Tom Wolfe's masterpiece deserved so much more. I think I'll just READ the book again or watch the movie.
Joe Barrett. The different characters were immediately recognizable by the way he portrayed them, and oh boy, did the voices match the personalities! I've listened to dozens of audiobooks and the only person who gave me a similar experience was Jim Dale with the Harry Potter series. Mr. Barrett brought out everything that's great about listening to books.
Slight spoiler alert! Although it's his earliest novel, it's the last one I've encountered and I had the same reaction to the ending of the book as I have to the previous three - I'm left wanting more (where's the real ending?). I guess that's probably what he's going for, but it prevents me from granting that fifth star (as if Mr. Wolfe cares).
The stripped down and somewhat cruel look at human weaknesses
Amazing voices characterization
Tom Killian. I bet he has the best stories.
I have never seen the movie, so my take on the novel wasn't influenced by pre-set characters from the big screen. Loved the story, and although I was sad to see it end, I truly enjoyed the journey.
Though the characters and their circumstances are a bit cliché, Tom Wolfe's observations have a real bite and still inform the current events of today, God help us... Listening to Joe Barret read is a marvel--loved his work on Owen Meany and this is even better!
I would rank it in the top ten, among Atlas Shrugged, Unbroken, East of Eden, Grapes of Wrath, Fall of Giants, Gone with the Wind, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
It's hard to find a favorite character. There weren't many admirable people.
The way he changed his voice, evoking classes and prejudices.
A Perfect Storm of Classes
It was interesting to see some of the characters recognize their own faults, only to be unable to do anything about them.