I'd always heard that Gulliver's Travels was one of the great satiric works of English literature, but if that's the case, I don't really understand the word. I had always thought satire was a gentle, humourous, and sometimes even affectionate skewering of the status quo, but this book is actually often rather angry and ham-fisted. Then again, sometimes it is humourous to the point of almost being farcical. Either way, it's not the children's book that some might be expecting.
Regardless of whether I'd call it satire, I did enjoy it - and I'm glad I listened to it rather than read it, as I think some of the language would have made it a very difficult read. It's a classic for many reasons, and it is referenced time and time again in popular culture, in whole or in part. Many know the basics of the 4 travel stories that make up this book - one to a land of miniature people, one to a land of gigantic people, one to a land led by a floating city with emphasis on math and music, and one to a land of rationality and reason presided over by equines, not humans. Mostly, I believed they allowed Swift an opportunity to lampoon all the parts of his society that he wished to insult, but in a more acceptable manner than shouting it out on street corners.
David Hyde Pierce did a wonderful job, not only in making some of the imaginary language understandable rather than distracting, but also in making the events seem more plausible than they otherwise might be in print and in making the sometimes long and drawn-out descriptions more palatable. Sadly, it took a while before I stopped thinking of Niles Crane narrating a story with his brother as the protagonist, but that fault is solely my own and not a problem with his narration.
If I had listened to a chapter a day this would perhaps have made a better listening experience.
The pace of this book is very slow. This is more of a satire of his time than the adventure I have seen in the movies.
Without David Hyde Pierce's performance this book would be unlistenable. He brings the story to life.
The only redeeming quality is David Hyde Pierce's performance. Just listening to his performance is enjoyable, if only I could tune out the book...
Swift not only skewers the politics of his times, principally the Whig Parties, but through his travels offers many pointed observations on human behavior that still applies today. I don't think he's necessarily a misanthrope but offers hope in the end to see the good in humanity as well. That's a lesson for us even today where fear and hope are contenders in our political elections and each of us must decide whether to see the best or worst in our natures.
Lucid, Brilliant, Timeless
Toward the end of the story, Gulliver launches into a hilarious tirade against the legal profession - lawyers and judges. At least as funny and on-target in the 21st century as it must have been in the early 18th century.
He reads very clearly for the modern reader. He knows exactly where and how to place emphasis in each sentence so that you have no trouble following along, even though the style of English is formally rather old fashioned. He also has a great comic style, bringing out the wry humor for maximum effect. Modern readers should have no worries about whether they will enjoy this reading.
I was stunned that I waited so long in my life to read this book. I should have read it forty years ago.
There is a reason why this book is still in print after three hundred years.
I don't watch much TV, so I didn't recognize the name of the narrator at the outset. I assumed, judging from his absolutely perfect delivery and performance, that he must be a British Shakespearean actor of great renown, one of those with equal mastery over drama and humor. I looked him up afterwards to find out what other books he's narrated, and was startled to find out that he is an American TV actor.
Besides this, Mr. Pierce has only narrated children's books, which is quite a disappointment. I hope he does more adult book narration in the near future.
I bought this because of the narrator but it is dull dull dull. No inflection in his voice, no emotion whatsoever. I couldn't get past the halfway mark. This is a classic I had never read and I am sorry this is the version I chose and that I waited too long to read it so I can't return it now!