John Hodgman is a great narrator, and really made this book. Without him, it probably wouldn't have been as enjoyable. The premise of the book is just simple fun and a good listen when you need something light. Comparisons to Hitchhikers are a bit overwrought. This isn't the Titanic, it's Gilligan's Island.
Since I finished this book last week, I've been recommending it to my friends who are endurance athletes as well as to people who complain about their diets. My friends who are endurance athletes may not care for Rich's stories of his struggles with addiction but I was fascinated. Roll was a Stanford swimmer then a champion drunk then a cheeseburger addict and then an Ultraman only because the Ironman races have a one year waiting list. An amazing story. He details his plant based diet (vegan w/out the politics, I guess) and I was interested in this too, though I could see how someone interested in the book for the addiction stories could get bored through these descriptions. I liked all of it. I liked his narration. It is his story and he is pretty straightforward. He comes off as a jerk in some parts, even after his transformation from alcoholic to athlete, but I get the feeling he's pretty self aware. His honesty beats excuses any day. I've also listened to Chris Macca's "I'm Here to Win" and while both are good, I'd rather spend time with Roll than Macca. Roll has a podcast that I'll be looking up. His story does not cease to amaze.
I didn't think by the description of this book that I would like it. Narrated from a dog's point of view? With heavy doses of racing minitiae thrown in? No thanks.
Now I'm heartily recommending this book to friends. Where I thought the dog's telling would be contrived, this is a dog who is sure his next incarnation will be as a human. His intelligence makes perfect sense. What I was really not prepared for is that this book is a tear jerker.
Also, a spot on performance by the narrator.
My book club chose Loving Frank and I picked it up on Audible so that I could listen at work and have it done in time for our meeting. It's probably not a book I'd have gotten on my own choosing. About half way through I scrapped the Audible version and purchased the book because I couldn't take the narrator's rendering of Frank Lloyd Wright's voice. She made him sound as though he suffered from chronic, painful constipation.
I thought the author did a fair job in recreating FLW in historical form. My grandfather was a tradesman who lived east of Spring Green, WI and though he never worked for Wright, had friends who did. Years ago my grandfather told me about how Wright typically didn't pay his laborers because they ought to have taken working for him as payment. I liked that this particular arrogance of his made a major plot point in the book.
However, I thought the book really dragged through the middle. I pushed through, knowing the historical conclusion to the story so that I could see how the author presented the ending. I wish more time was spent developing the last few pages. If the book had no basis in history, I think readers would think that the author came up with some crazy hurried way to conclude the loose ends. As it is truth is stranger than fiction and the book would have been made better by spending a little more time in the truth than the conjecture of who Mamah Cheney was.
The plot of Edgar Sawtelle is loosely based on Hamlet. Edgar's dad dies mysteriously, Edgar's uncle marries Edgar's mom there are ghosts etc. etc. The end has obviously left readers upset, but if you know - thanks to Shakespeare - that all is not going to end well but it will end with a bang, you may enjoy the book more.
I recommend renting Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet and spending a few hours watching before listening to Edgar Sawtelle. Several passages in Sawtelle were riveting. I found it well worth my time.
In Plato's Allegory of the Cave, he says that if we were all prisoners chained in a cave, we would think shadows cast in the cave by the surface world were reality, and that if we were let out of the cave to see the surface world we wouldn't believe it. I wonder if Emma Donoghue decided to retell the allegory from the point of view of a five year old.
I confess that at first I didn't care for the 5 year old's narrator, but I let that go because the story is so well written. It does not for a second insult the intelligence. Imagine a book written from a science fiction perspective about what life is like on our planet. And the person telling you is five. And he has passing knowledge of the world but only through what is shown on television. This is that book.
Like The Help, this book uses several narrators which was a great choice. I am only at the halfway mark, but unless the end is horribly disappointing, I am halfway to one of the best books I've downloaded this year.
I am a recent fan of Junot Diaz from both his reading/interviews as well as his short stories as presented on the New Yorker's short story podcast. I think that Oscar Wao should have remained maybe a novella or a short story but even a writer with deft word skills can get dull when going back and forth and back and forth over the same territory. Oscar Wao is a loser. His life is brief. Those are my Cliff's Notes. I don't think there's much else to say - except he's from the Dominican Republic. Apparently, Oscar Wao is the first loser the DR ever produced. Interesting, but not novel-, or credit-worthy.
Bronson Pinchot, the narrator, shows how having a good actor, as opposed to a good reader, can bring much to a novel. He did a fantastic job with this. Great character development, interesting historical backdrop, and a decent plot add up to a good listen. The denouement was a bit overlong, but by then I liked the book so much I didn't care that it was hanging around a bit after it could've wrapped things up.
This book is told from four different view points. The first character and the last character would make for a compelling novella. The middle two characters are unlikeable and strident. It's almost as if a different and inferior author took on the two middle characters. I confess I don't even get the subplot obsession with angels. Skip it.
The narrator for this book was spot on. I've been recommending the book in either form since finishing it, and have gone back and listened to it again. I downloaded this book for my daughter, but wound up loving it myself.
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