I really love the novels of John le Carre, especially the Karla series. This may be le Carre's best work - better even than the Karla novels. The vertiginous manipulations, the moral ambiguities, the uncomfortable compromises made by the protagonist Alec Leamas, make this a gripping story with existential reverberations, even 50 years after it was first published.
If the ending of "Smiley's People" is a victory with chilling implications for the human soul, then the ending of this novel is a crushing defeat with hopeful inspiration for the individual. Nothing is ever as it seems in le Carre's best work, and that is doubly true here.
One note: even though it's listed as part of the Smiley series, George Smiley is barely even a minor character in this book - more of a shadowy emanation, and one which hints at another side of his identity.
This review covers all three books of the Lord of the Rings.
I've read the Lord of the Rings Trilogy many times since I first discovered Middle Earth at the age of 14. I thought I knew the whole work thoroughly after many re-readings. I was wrong. The sections that focus on the history and lore of Middle Earth seemed, when reading the printed page, a bit slow - and I may have given them short shrift.
One great thing about audiobooks is that you will get every word that the author wrote. Maybe it was Rob Inglis's narration, but parts of the book came alive for me as though I were reading them for the first time.
As a long-time Tolkien reader, I enjoyed the movies - but listening to the books made me realize how I really loved them, and how superior they are to the movies. While it may make me sound positively medieval, I just don't think that film (at least mainstream film) can capture the depth and meaning found in books - including audiobooks.
A final note on Tolkien as an author. He's often described as a a better storyteller than a prose writer. I think that's wrong. Yes, he writes in a traditional style (suitable to his subject matter), if you are looking for evidence of his writing prowess, go back and read the scene of Faramir and Eowyn on the walls of Minas Tirith. And on another level, think about the interlacing of history and lore with the narrative - reminiscent of Tolstoy's War and Peace. The Lord of the Rings deserves to be listed among the great works of 20th Century literature.
This course is an excellent introduction and overview of world mythology. It covers a lot of ground, and does it well. While I would recommend it to anyone, I need to add the following caveats:
Because it covers so much ground, it moves as a very brisk speed, and in some cases I would have preferred to get more depth (for example, more detail on some of the hero myths, and more discussion of the psychological interpretation of myth, a la Rank, Jung and Campbell). Dr. Voth did a really good job of covering the material, but there's enough here for two or even three lecture series.
Second, I found my interest waning slightly in during the latter part of the course. This may have been because (while he never says so) Prof. Voth seems to be suggesting a kind of monomyth for trickster myths (similar to the monomyth of the hero). While I thought the argument and evidence presented for the hero monomyth was compelling, it seemed that the trickster myths were much more diverse (hard to see an parallel between the Norse Loki and the African Anansi as presented here, for example).
Still, the course material was very engaging, and I will definitely be broadening my study of mythology as a result.
I wish I had liked this book better. I really enjoyed and got a lot out of Dr. Hollis' other audio books, all of which I highly recommend. There's value here too, but the book is very different from the others.
To begin with, this is not written for a broad audience but rather for those who have a solid background in the works and theories of C.G. Jung. In particular, Dr. Hollis uses Jung's theories to explicate works of the archetypal imagination - including the poetry of Rilke and works of art by artists he's known. And he uses those works of art to discuss Jung's theory of the archetypes. Hollis' erudition and knowledge of the arts is impressive and is very much on display, particularly in his discussion of Rilke.
The discussion of visual art does not work in an audio book. It is possible to download a free pdf copy of the book through the Texas A&M University website, but if you are like me (and a lot of people) and listen to audio books on your daily commute, that may not help much.
There is a very strong spiritual theme here (though if you are a literalist about religion, Hollis' works are probably not for you - he's very clear about not having any patience with literalism in religion). This focus is much more pronounced here than in his works for a broader audience. I would have preferred more of a focus on the psychological than the spiritual, but as I said, this book is not like his other works.
On another note, the narrator does a good job in English (strong voice, clear enunciation), but mispronounces many of the foreign words (especially German) that are peppered throughout the text. My knowledge of German is limited to a couple of years in high school, and that was enough to make me cringe at some of the mispronunciations.
If I thought the book were worthless, I would not have spent this much time discussing it. My feelings are decidedly mixed - I really wanted to enjoy this book, but ultimately didn't. Someone with a more specialized theoretical interest might. I'll put this one aside, and look forward to the next of his audio books that's addressed to a broader lay audience.
I've had an interest in W.H. Auden's poetry, though I am not familiar with much of it - so this book seemed like a logical choice. And yes, it's sparked my interest further and helped me to see things about his poetry and his life that I was unaware of. My only thought is that I would have liked to get even more information and insight about Auden, his poetry, and the author's relationship to him.
A great introduction to Auden, so despite its brevity, I recommend it!
If you want a history of the debate between skeptics and believers told essentially from the believers' point of view, this lecture series does a good job. My impression is that Professor Roberts includes just enough of the skeptics to show how they affected the arguments of the believers. But if you're looking for a robust summation of Hume, Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, etc. presented with an emphasis equal to that given the other side, this is not it. In fact, I'd say it's at best 1/3 skeptics and 2/3 believers.
At the very least, the title of the series is misleading. It might have more appropriately been something like: "Religious Debates in the Western Intellectual Tradition: The Response of Believers to their Critics." But then, I would not have purchased it.
Excellent exploration of the human psyche - both our personality and our soul. The concepts, ideas and stories provide great insight into life's struggles - and have, for me, been helpful in addressing some of the bigger questions in life.
Why just short of five stars? A work like this will always include some mystical notes. Mostly I am OK with that - but just occasionally I felt that the writing went a little too far in that direction, and it became a bit disorienting. At those moments it felt as though I had lost a sense of what the point was, almost like having a mild case of vertigo.
This is not a book for the conventionally-minded, and I recommend that if you are at all a fundamentalist (or are dependent on the certainties that much of what religion preaches), you should just skip it. He has a definite opinion of religious fundamentalism, and it's not a kind one.
Also, if you are wedded to the material values of mainstream culture, this book may not be for you - no kind words there, either.
But if you are willing to start with doubt about the easy answers that our culture provides, or you find that you've begun to doubt them, then this book may help you on your journey.
Neil Gaiman's best works are ostensibly about the supernatural, and this is no exception. The worlds and the characters he creates are truly magical, and that is reason enough to read and savor his books. But that's not all.
I realized this when listening to The Ocean at the End of the Lane. His books are also about the exploration of the psyche -
American Gods - a story about a man who doesn't know who he is.
Anansi Boys - a story about a man who is incomplete, because he believes he is incomplete.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane - a story about a man who cannot remember the most important thing about his own past.
Each is the story of a man searching to become whole.
Douglas Adams, reading excerpts from the Hitchhiker's Guide! Well, it's only a few excerpts, and he occasionally stables (slightly) in his reading. Still, great to hear to how he expresses some of the dialog and portrays some of his own characters. Plus, there are a couple of asides that provide some context about things in the books (avoiding possible spoilers!).
Dirk Gently is another great Adams character, and the situations (though set on Earth) are as absurd as anything in The Hitchhiker's Guide. I give it only four stars overall simply because it's abridged - I want more!
Normally, I wouldn't even think of buying an abridged audiobook, but this is Douglas Adams - read by the author. So for me that makes all the difference.
OK - those are strong words, and there really has been a lot of great writing in the last 50 years (I did say "possibly"). But the combination of imaginative genius, over-the-top humor and just enough philosophical thought makes H2G2 a true standout. The radio plays predated the published books, and were my first exposure to Douglas Adams in the early 1980s - they remain the best way to experience The Hitchhiker's Guide.
There are only a few audio books that I return to and listen a second time. H2G2 is an audio book that I am moved to listen to at least every two years. Basically, I'd be lost without the Guide... If I could give it six stars, I would.
P.S. Years after I fell in love with the books, I learned that Adams had been a script writer and editor for the BBC's Doctor Who, and that he was a friend of Richard Dawkins - he introduced Lalla Ward (who played Romana on Doctor Who) to Dawkins, they subsequently married. Lalla Ward co-narrates Dawkins' audio books, which I also recommend. That serves to illustrate "the interconnectedness of all all things" (which is something you'll come upon in another of Adams' books - Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency.
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