Anthony Powell captured my imagination circa 1966, not so long after I first read Tolkien.
Nick Jenkins is the narrator, and his amused and amusing use of the language to describe people he meets - mostly with seriously memorable dialog - feeds back into his reflection and imaginings as he grows from childhood into old age. The chosen reader is simply excellent, and his literal "voice" truly adds remarkable value.
If you already love A Dance to the Music of Time, I suspect you will share my joy at another "reading" by this talented production team.
If you have not, get ready for history written one conversation at a time, with seriously realized characters who keep growing, changing, surprising and not surprising.
The shaggy dog story may be a tale told aloud that never quite makes a point, or gets to a point. Like a verbal meme, you find yourself trying to re-tell the story, a bit like whistling a tune that lingers in your mind. If the story touches on married life and even approaches the bawdy, the prose and the humor are so innocent that even good-humored blue-noses have secretly enjoyed Sterne for literal centuries.
If you read the ink and paper version - even if you never quite finished - you may find Peter Parker's reading opens whole new vistas. Besides accents and cadences, this book cries out for a slower, no-slimming approach. A bit like rolling an elegant coffee over your palate. The Librivox version is a joy, but Parker is a quiet but unanswerable argument for the thoughtful, professional reader.
A gentle, laughing ramble through unlikely but kindly people, with philosophy as love of wit and wisdom and the ever-surprising.
In an oddly post-modern opening, the dedication to the English prime minister (Pitt the elder, French and Indian war leader in American terms) is followed by an offer to sell the dedication for the second and following printings. Not the passionate and personal rejection of noble patronage, but writing and reading for joy, laughter and elegant stories.
How about a chapter on "whiskers" as a word for "bawdy," or Uncle Toby whistling Liliabollero (there are recordings on the web, and whistling along is itself a hoot) discussed and characterized as formal rhetoric following Aristotle and Cicero?
Whether you enjoy or ignore the Military History channel, Uncle Toby's model of the fortification outside Nemours (where the original Dartagnon won fame) partly frames the intricate technical terms of fortification (a boulevard originally meant a street built where a large, low earth-core wall once stood; Toby watched them being built around most serious cities in West Europe).
The cash price may be cheaper than a credit.
Even if you don't hear stem-winder lectures (sermons) so often nowadays about the Munich betrayal of Czechoslovakia ("peace in our time" was never quite the same, even as a prayer), there are abstract arguments - Britain had only just begun to build modern fighters, would the German army command have taken action to dump Hitler, was the German build-up itself ready to fight, etc.
Harry Turtledove makes you forget whatever you thought you knew, including real WW II history, and his cast of seriously developed characters live a story where neither you nor they know how it will turn out, let alone details.
His trademark effortless mastery of details runs from the motor, armor and weapons on a panzer Mark 1 or Mark 2, or the early anti-tank weapons (think a .50 calibre machine gun pretending to be a rifle; and here I found the LAAW and 3.5 inch rocket frustrating ;-) through Jewish life in Hitler's Germany. He invents Czech soldiers who fought hard in their own country, and escaped to fight in France - imagine "Good Soldier Schweik' with the same character but with his own country and fighting to keep it.
I just finished the second volume, and will re-audit the first, because Turtledove's prose and imagination richly reward the second reading.
For Stirling fans, his latest may be one of his greatest. If you liked the Draka or Clan MacKensie, I think his fully realized Shadowspawn (a genetic sub species that can do a scientific sort of magic, drink blood, shift shapes and perhaps live forever) society will ring your chimes.
If you enjoy the love, romance and blood-drinking genre, Steve may put some depth and thought, as well as LOTS of very vivid prose, to the characters, how they grow as people, before during and after. The central couple slept together for six months, broke up, and now rediscover love amidst terror, horror and courage.
Drinking blood feels like what wine can only try to be - imagine full scale telepathy as your demon lover makes love, knowing just what gives joy and what causes pain, and preys upon your final heart beat despair and personality dissolution.
He also makes evil as real and nuanced as having a nice meal - and the choices that make us less bad and perhaps even good just as real, if a bit less scary.
Having just finished reading and now auditing, I can say that the reader adds serious value, as Steve has been making "voices" come alive.
No matter if you "went there, did that," rode a draft exemption, or if it all happened before your parents were born.
Karl Marlantes makes the characters live and breath.
Almost impossibly for most of us who played but one role, he lets us "walk a mile" in the shoes of folks at platoon, company, battalion and regiment, especially when they'd execrate each other foully and at length. His helo pilot and grunt stories do justice to both, if that's possible.
The landscape - mountains and mist and rain, leeches and tigers and jungle rot - is remarkably vivid. While the PAVN soldiers and even officers are only seen from outside, I think Bao Ninh ("Sorrow of War," maybe the best PAVN side novel of the war) would recognize and perhaps even nod at the word portraits.
Do you remember cooking C rations over plastic explosive, or just cooking excrable powdered coffee in empty green cans?
Did you ever lie in the dark with a flashlight to mark an L-Z - yes or no, marking a tiny landing zone with heat tabs inside helmets will resonate. And yes, kevlar coal scuttle folks, In The Old Days a steel pot was steel, so you could boil water in it.
The race war within the Vietnam War is probably outside our imagination, here and now, and even a white liberal who joined SNCC when they still allowed whites may have trouble writing foxhole dialog in this area.
Yeppers, there's a real fragging and a phoney one, but I think the handling and the plot will surprise you - they work as character and plot.
No matter whether you've seen the Stanley Kubrick movie, or read the book - "Clockwork Orange" demands the spoken word, especially all the bits of British accents but also a made-up language and a very neat "voice" for "little Alex" (the Malcolm McDowell character in the iconic picture, bowler hat, eye makeup and stiletto).
This audio book adds-back the last chapter, deleted from the US book and the film. Burgess explains his logic, while admitting the reasons why we may agree with the US editor (I agree with Burgess, myself, but then I'd been utterly unaware of the question).
Burgess personally speaks an introduction, and at the end, reads aloud 3 critical chapters, adding surprising depth to the minor characters even as you can feel his identification with little Alex.
There is substance here, though it works neatly just as "ultra-violence" with minimal human depth.
With the added arc of character, and Burgess reading key bits of little Alex narrating, and even adding some of the capital-R Romantic classical music that's interwoven with ultra-violence in little Alex's soul, "voice" seems the best word for the way Burgess uses linguistic razzle-dazzle to get us all inside little Alex.
A note on "ultra-violence," especially the graphic rapes clearly motivated more by violent hatred than anything like merely erotic desire. The plot and Alex's arc are about free will, good and evil, and may even work as an odd Christian apologetic. The violence is central and deeply thought-out, about as far from gratuitous exploitation as I can imagine.
Still and all, the violence is horrible, terrible and even a bit nauseating - but then that's what makes "evil" a meaninful word, yes?
Mary Mapes seems to assume we all share her oddly elastic approach to truth.
In case you never saw a typewriter, the output is visibly different from proportional typefaces in MicroSoft Word.
Mapes pretends that even the CBS experts report that the Word document was an obvious forgery was no reason to doubt a partisan story.
If she had not been coordinating the "story" with the Kerry campaign - as confirmed by their press spokesman - and if there was not a coordinated DNC TV ad, we might see an absence of actual malice (scienter), just grotesque bias run amok.
In case you were wondering, President Bush had just over 2 years of points from active duty for training as a pilot - he could have honorably resigned from the Guard at any time. Al Gore was quite right in 2000 to reject this utterly groundless story.
But then there came Mapes and Rather.
Tommy Franks reading his own words shows what "voice" means as an abstraction about a prose style.
He makes the key players and events of the second Iraq war come alive - no matter what your position on the war, you will learn things and I suspect come to respect a man named Tommy Franks.
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