Naples, Fl | Member Since 2002
Although I am a fan of Carvaggio, reader Campbell Scott and, of course, the new freedom Audible has given me to enjoy more books than I could possibly do if I had to read them in the conventional manner--"The Lost Painting" is a not a good choice for listening. The book recounts the arduous, often tedious work in tracking down and authenticating a masterpiece of art. In order to relay this story and give all the participants their due there are too many characters, places, and terminology to contend with, and for myself I often had trouble following who was who and where was where. If I had the book in hand (which I intend to do at the library soon) I would be able to go back over confusing bits in order to remind myself of specifics. I also suspect that the printed book is indexed and/or footnoted which would aid in studying this account and that there is a valid reason for doing this. Therefore, my low rating is directly aimed at "The Lost Painting" as a rating for an "audio" book and nothing against the writer, the story, or the fabulous reader Campbell Scott.
The reader, Richard Poe, does a darn good job especially conveying the character of a mute boy. I'm glad I listened to this book as opposed to reading it conventionally as I would never have gotten into it enough to finish it. I would have been frustrated by the author's dogged determination to detail every single sight, sound, smell, emotion leaving no color, noise, odor or feeling without being described by at least five adjectives/adverbs. If I'm listening to a book that's 18+ hours long, it's not so much an of an issue--I have to do the stuff I'm doing while I'm listening anyway.
Now for the novel itself--this is a writer too influenced by Stephen King to realize that he could have written a piece of modern literary fiction. Instead he relies on ridiculous devices like psychics and ghosts. Had the author dropped the ghostly revelations and just let Edgar's own obvious intuition and intellect reveal the narrative and character, he would have had a far more compelling, honest and beautiful novel.
Where Wroblewski impressed, moved, and kept me to the end (and the end is terrible!) is his inspired chapters and passages devoted to the dogs. Even the device of two chapters devoted to the point-of-view of one of the dogs is brilliant. If you do not love a dog, this might not move you, but I do and this book has inspired me to work much more closely with him (he is only a year old) in order to allow him to show me all he knows.
Now for the ending--there's not a shred of satisfaction in it.
To create these characters, this world, this mystery and then--poof--no resolution for any one character, let alone the reader a reader is the biggest mystery of all.
Steve, you've successfully developed a public persona that interfers with a reader accepting this latest novella as a legitimate work of fiction. You should not write first-person prose. Your fame has engrained a funny, off-beat personality into Americans' minds and for your to a) ask readers to separate everything they are familiar with you from the funny, off-beat personality of Daniel; and b) to then solidify the connection between you and this character by going on to narrate the book is asking too much of us readers.
"Shop Girl" worked because you stepped back and created a world without Steve Martin in it. Now I hear you're going to play in the movie version. Come on--you're smart--think about this. Separate Steve Martin the novelist from Steve Martin famous TV and movie actor and comediene. You can do it.
Seinfeld was a show about nothing. "The Namesake" is a book about nothing. The difference is Seinfeld was replete with nutty characters doing humorous things while this book is a humorless portrayal of a humorless man and his humorless family and their humorless lives. Compare this book to another book of Indian theme--"The Life of Pi" and you get snooze fest versus a riviting tale of survival and imagination. The only thing I can say good about this production is that the reader was brilliantly adept in her execution. She continually had a tenor to her voice that led me to believe that at any minute something was going to happen that would present itself as the arc of the story. Perhaps, she herself was waiting for something to happen. How can this book be so highly touted when it's devoid of the basic elements of a novel? Instead, this book reads more like a series of short stories, none of which ever finds its way.
I have to admit I didn't listen to this book, but allowed myself to read it as my "trashy beach book." I was not wrong to assume that it would be trashy--the writing style especially. Believe me, reading this book or hearing it unabridged could not possibly help it. Here's Sophie, so expert at deciphering codes she works for the French government yet cannot look at a note screaming to be held up to a mirror to be interpreted. (I wonder how that bit was handled by a narrator). I'm reading that chapter looking at this reverse writing and shouting--get a mirror Nancy Drew! And that's true of nearly all of the so-called mysterious codes riddling the book--if I can figure out things before these experts can, something's wrong. The other thing the characters do--well, it's Brown's fault not the thinnly drawn two-dimensional figures in this book--is reiterate the obvious. It's as if the writer wanted to make sure he himself got what was going on. For instance, there's Chap. 67 when Robert has just been hit over the head. "How's your head, Robert?" Sophie asked, sounding concerned." If ever an adverb needed editing it this and every other one in the entire novel deserves the red pen. Author Brown, isn't merely asking the question indicative of concern? Finally, what you folks who only listened to the book did not have to endure was the italized thoughts of each character who immediately restates in thought the obvious reaction as to what just happened. The only mildly interesting thing I gleaned from this book is the reinforcement of my opinion of how obsessed people get about their myths. When the logical part of someone's mind is taken over by their investment in myth, then anything they look for substantiates it. For instance, if DaVinci paints his version of a myth, does that make the myth a reality?
This abridgement suffers from obvious continuity issues and glarlingly unanswered questions. Eg., the slaves' names being discussed as if the listener already met the characters. Other odd, awkward blurps pop-up throughout. Initially, I was captivated by the vivid descriptions of 18thC life in rustic Ireland and miasmic New York. This fascination was inspired by the author's rich detailing of history through the development of strong, engaging characters. However, the fire of the novel fizzles out with the fire in New York, when the narrative leaps from the 1830's to the year 2000 with some rather contrived explanations for how Cormac has lived his life in between. I wanted to know how he managed to avoid the drafts for the Civil, First, Second, Korean, and Vietnam Wars. I want to know how it is that he paid no taxes when in fact he is employed by several newspapers, and the employed have Social Security Numbers and W-2's. I wanted to know Cormac's reaction to modern technology. Although he learned the art of theater make-up to disguise his age, would that really fool people today? And, if he couldn't go to Irish/Jewish heaven without having eradicated the entire Warren line, then what was the point of his "Irish reason for living?" He knew he couldn't kill them all because he couldn't leave Manhattan. Since he hadn't fulfilled his duty by dispatching many other Warrens, why would Cormac bother with the last Warren available? There's no point to this entire storyline as Cormac doesn't seem to learn, even with the 9/11 tragedy, that bloodthristy lust in the name of familial, religious vengence results in the slaughter of innocents. What could have been an epic novel fails partly, I believe, because Hamill has one two many colliding myths and contrived exceptions to those myths moving along the story. If I had been his editor I would have tried to gently coach him into producing the epic the beginning promises.
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