I loved everything about this book--the story of his life, Roger Ebert's wonderful writing style, and Edward Herrmann's flawless recording. There's a lot here for anyone who loves biography or memoir, and all the better if you're a film lover, because he treats us to some terrific profiles of the notable directors and actors he's met along the way. (I've never been a fan of a couple of the directors that Roger writes about in selected chapters, but I feel like I have a new insight into their work and will go back for a second look at some of those films.) I also have a new appreciation for and deep respect for the challenges Roger has faced in his life. He is a man of great depth, humor, intelligence, and compassion. The wonderful thing about an audio book is that you don't always have a sense of how far along you are in the work. I listened to this book over the course of several days and just got lost in it--in the best kind of way. If it had lasted another hundred hours, I would have loved every minute of it.
I have long been a fan of Bryson's writing, so my problem isn't so much with his material as it is with his narration. I know that he grew up in Iowa but lived abroad for many years, so maybe that explains the somewhat odd accent he has, as well as the British pronunciations of certain words. But what really frustrated me was his inability to pronounce "ing" at the end of a word--burning became "burneen," building became "buildeen," etc. I didn't dislike the book--and I certainly won't give up on Bryson as a writer because he can be delightful--but I wish that I'd read this one in its print version because Bryson's narration really started to grate on me.
I had read this book several years ago in print--and enjoyed it very much--so was happy to see an audio version available. It's still a great book, but I grew increasingly frustrated with the reader, who had an annoying habit of occasionally emphasizing (to me) the wrong words in sentences--or using an "arch" tone when one wasn't (again, to me) really called for. I found myself editing her narration in my mind, or frequently wondered what the great director himself might have thought of her reading! So, while it's not terrible, a different narrator--say, Edward Herrmann--might have brought this material to life in a way that Ms. Conlin doesn't.
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