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Darwin8u

"... there are times when silence is a poem." - John Fowles, the Magus ^(;,;)^

Mesa, AZ, United States

ratings
443
REVIEWS
438
FOLLOWING
16
FOLLOWERS
1751
HELPFUL VOTES
9013

  • Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By David Sedaris
    • Narrated By David Sedaris
    Overall
    (4072)
    Performance
    (3701)
    Story
    (3682)

    From the unique perspective of David Sedaris comes a new collection of essays taking his listeners on a bizarre and stimulating world tour. From the perils of French dentistry to the eating habits of the Australian kookaburra, from the squat-style toilets of Beijing to the particular wilderness of a North Carolina Costco, we learn about the absurdity and delight of a curious traveler's experiences.

    FanB14 says: "Devout Fan Disappointed"
    "Let's explore HOOTers with diabetics."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    While I enjoyed this collection more than Sedaris' previous book 'Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk', it just didn't rise to the levels of his great collections ('Naked' or 'Me Talk Pretty Someday'), or even his very good collections ('When You Are Engulfed in Flames' or 'Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim'). I just feel like he is retreading the same ground, picking up the same litter, and is starting that phase in his career where he is like a band from the 80s that isn't creating as much as exploiting his better work.

    I hope I am being overly pessimistic, and maybe I am just jaded from the horrible audio experience my wife and I had last night listening to him at Gammage Auditorium in Tempe, AZ, but it seems that the reading typified my feelings about his book. Sedaris was reading to a comfortable group in comfortable shoes, reading comfortable stories. We all laughed at the appropriate parts, we all knew what we expected and David Sedaris delivered the goods -- mostly.

    The audio quality wasn't great, but I walked away mostly amused that I somehow ended up parting with 1 credit at Audible, $15 bucks on Amazon, $45 for a live reading, and while mildly entertained ... I wasn't particularly blown away. It was like I was a beer-bellied, middle-aged man at a Journey concert. I figure I didn't pay for the new set, just for the couple hours of nostalgia at how great it was ten or twenty years ago. Now, I've just got to figure out now how much nostalgia will cost me tomorrow.

    35 of 56 people found this review helpful
  • Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Michel Foucault
    • Narrated By Simon Prebble
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (77)
    Performance
    (64)
    Story
    (66)

    This groundbreaking audiobook by Michel Foucault, the most influential philosopher since Sartre, compels us to reevaluate our assumptions about all the ensuing reforms in the penal institutions of the West. For as Foucault examines innovations that range from the abolition of torture to the institution of forced labor and the appearance of the modern penitentiary, he suggests that punishment has shifted its focus from the prisoner's body to his soul-and that our very concern with rehabilitation encourages and refines criminal activity.

    Jaded Buddha says: "More titles like this one please!"
    "French post-structural look at looking and prisons"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I've had this book for nearly twenty years on my shelf. Before a couple weeks ago I never quite found myself in the "right" mood for a French post-structural look at power, prisons, and punishment. It is interesting reading this and thinking about how influential Foucault was in the modern criticisms of the penal system, and various areas of control (schools, hospitals, psychiatric facilities, the military and prisons).

    I didn't realize until I read the prologue that the "Disciple" part of the title was originally Surveiller (Watch) et punir (Punish). It made sense back in the day to use discipline, but given the giant NSA observation issues, I kinda hope they consider changing the title at some point back to some variant of watch. That was a surprise part of the book that isn't communicated by discipline, and a part that is VERY relevant to the world we exist in.

    Anyway, I could probably come up with some high-falutin reason to like or not like this book, but honestly, I kinda liked it, just not enough to put forward HUGE efforts of defense or evangelism. There were some of the obvious issues with a lot of postmodern historical books (big ideas, radical ways to look at things), but the damn flag is pretty high and pretty big and the pole is thin and isn't buried very deep. But God love Foucault and his big poles.

    So, I still want to read his sexy books, his book on madness, and his book on the clinic, so I guess that makes this a four-star book. I don't want to read all of his stuff tomorrow, but I want to read more... but later, when nobody's watching.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Go Tell It On the Mountain

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 45 mins)
    • By James Baldwin
    • Narrated By Adam Lazarre-White
    Overall
    (159)
    Performance
    (138)
    Story
    (139)

    James Baldwin’s stunning first novel is now an American classic. With startling realism that brings Harlem and the black experience vividly to life, this is a work that touches the heart with emotion while it stimulates the mind with its narrative style, symbolism, and excoriating vision of racism in America. Moving through time from the rural South to the northern ghetto, Baldwin chronicles a 14-year-old boy’s discovery of the terms of his identity as the stepson of the minister of a storefront Pentecostal church in Harlem one Saturday in March of 1935.

    Darwin8u says: "Knotted Around Some Raw Edge of My Soul"
    "Knotted Around Some Raw Edge of My Soul"
    Overall
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    This was a slow read. In terms of pages and words it was a small book, but the river was deep and fierce. Baldwin is throwing out big themes on family, religion, race, sex. This isn't a beach read, it is a hard pew read in an unconditioned, hellfire and damnation church. I would read 40 pages and have to take a day to recover emotionally.

    THIS book is why I read fiction. Look. I am white on white, again and again. Seriously, I took the Twenty-Three&Me DNA spit test and I am pretty deep into the white gene hole. How else, besides brilliant narrative fiction, am I going to understand anything about being black or being a black pentecostal WITHOUT reading Baldwin?

    Baldwin's use of repetition was amazing. I haven't read recently (other than Moby-Dick) a novel that appears to be made, brick-by-brick, with more King James Bible pieces than Go Tell It on the Mountain. There are some novels where writer ties off every narrative thread. Baldwin wasn't satisfied with that. Each sad string in this novel seemed to end up threaded through some part of my heart and knotted around some raw edge of my soul.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 15 mins)
    • By Garry Wills
    • Narrated By Garry Wills
    Overall
    (87)
    Performance
    (25)
    Story
    (27)

    There is perhaps no more compelling example of the power of words than Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. In merely 272 words, Lincoln gave the nation "a new birth of freedom" by tracing its history to the Declaration of Independence, as well as incorporating elements of the Greek revival and Transcendentalism. Garry Wills breathes news life into words we thought we knew and reveals much about a President so easily mythologized but often misunderstood.

    Darwin8u says: "A Review in 292"
    "A Review in 292"
    Overall
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    Fundamentally, the thing I love about criticism is the ability to read a damn fine book about a damn speech and recognize the author of the book wrote a little more than a page for every word (292) in the Gettysburg Address. If you count appendixes and notes (why wouldn't you when the appendix and notes matter?).

    I once teased my wife, during my early wooing stage, that I wanted to write an ode to every hair on her head (a load of odes). Garry Wills did. This book is both academic criticism (one chapter is infused with new historicism, one is textual criticism, one is formalist, one is mythological) and an ode to Lincoln, Language, and this damn fine speech. I could see Garry Wills publishing each chapter in some well-funded Civil War journal and eventually weaving each paper together. I'm not sure how it really happened. Wills might just have used the chapters and forms of literary criticism as an organizational framework. I am not going to do an exegesis on the book to find out. That would be far too meta.

    Anyway, it was a quick and fascinating read and significantly deepened my understanding of Lincoln's motives for the speech while also acting as an Entmythologisierung* of the text. No. Lincoln did not write the text on the back of a napkin while on a train TO Gettysburg. Anyway, a must read for those who love history, the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, or Transcendentalism.

    * I'm using the German here as a joke, since there were several instances when Wills referenced Everett bringing back the seeds of Transcendentalism and higher criticism from their studies there. I'm also using it because it is 1.5x as fun as just saying demystification.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • The Mission Song

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 31 mins)
    • By John le Carré
    • Narrated By David Oyelowo
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (175)
    Performance
    (49)
    Story
    (46)

    Abandoned by his parents, Bruno Salvador has long looked for guidance. He found it in Mr. Anderson of British Intelligence. Working for Anderson in a clandestine facility, Salvo (as he's known) translates intercepted phone calls, bugged recordings, and snatched voice-mail messages. When Anderson sends him to a mysterious island to interpret during a secret conference, Bruno thinks he is helping Britain--but then he hears something he should not have.

    Peter says: "Audio Triumph"
    "Only a tease, a taunt of le Carré's brilliance"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    My basic take on 'The Mission Song' is similar to Alvy's old joke in Annie Hall:

    "um... two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of 'em says, "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know; and such small portions."

    Well, that's essentially how I feel about this book. Actually, wait no, I don't think 'The Mission Song' was terrible. I thought parts of it were actually brilliant and the potential for brilliance was huge. I loved the idea of Bruno Salvador, the interpreter, caught between two worlds. There JUST wasn't enough of THAT part. The plot was fairly simple and straightforward. Not bad, but again, only a tease, a taunt of le Carré's brilliance wrapped in an average le Carré just makes me sad.

    It also suffers from being proximately sat next to (or nearly next to) The Constant Gardener; yes, two le Carré's African twin sisters: one brilliant (The Constant Gardner), and one that only has the hint of brilliance (The Mission Song). One just pales in comparison to the other, and will perpetually be overshadowed by her better looking, more talented colonial twin.

    Speaking of Colonialism, le Carré just wasn't pissed enough in this novel. I kind of like it when his anger is turned up to 11. The anger was here, but it was diffuse and subtle and romantic and sometimes a bit misdirected (to me). He merely twirled the narrative knife instead of shiving and shanking.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • The Varieties of Religious Experience

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By William James
    • Narrated By John Pruden
    Overall
    (57)
    Performance
    (45)
    Story
    (41)

    First published in 1905, The Varieties of Religious Experience is a collection of lectures given at the University of Edinburgh in 1901 and 1902. William James was a psychologist and, as such, his interest in religion was not that of a theologian but of a scientist. In these 20 lectures, he discusses the nature and origin of religious belief. The average believer is one who has inherited his religion, but this will not do for James's inquiry.

    Darwin8u says: "God **ahem** bless William James."
    "God **ahem** bless William James."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The amazing thing about James is he can write with precision and humility about something so completely intrinsic and fraught with pit falls. Most writers run at the subject with some large bias of the mystical, the . You have thousand of books written every year proclaiming their strain of Christianity, Judaism, Vegetarianism, Atheism, Mormonism, Buddhism, as being the only true and living way to view the divine AND the only mirror to view and judge ourselves. James is different. He artfully and carefully presents a measured approach to religion. He picks it apart with affection. He looks at it normatively and then he tries to look at each speck and piece through a value lens.

    I believe the magic of this book is James isn't selling a belief. He isn't pimping a lifestyle. He is just curious and very very smart. And it isn't a clinical curiosity either (although his precision could be called clinical). It is a joyful curiosity. A drive to discover how we work and what really makes us tick. He wants to know and explain his hypothesis. God **ahem** bless William James. He wasn't just describing the transcendental condition of mankind, he was establishing and building a framework for others to follow for over 100 years.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • A Deadly Shade of Gold: A Travis McGee Novel, Book 5

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By John D. MacDonald
    • Narrated By Robert Petkoff
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (244)
    Performance
    (207)
    Story
    (204)

    When McGee picks up the phone and hears a voice from the past, he can't help it. He has to meddle. Especially when he has the chance to reunite Sam Taggart, a reckless, restless man like himself, with the woman who's still waiting for him. But what begins as a simple matchmaking scheme soon becomes a bloody chase that takes McGee to Mexico, a beautiful country - and one from which he hopes to return alive.

    Darwin8u says: "J Dickey's prose + I Fleming's narrative flourish"
    "J Dickey's prose + I Fleming's narrative flourish"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    John D MacDonald presents a combination of James Dickey's prose with Ian Fleming's narrative flourish. With John D. MacDonald, however, you are also likely to find weird paragraphs sprinkled into the novel that deal with economics, politics, love, lust, the John Birch Society, and the ethics of hunting. Reading MacDonald is like having a surprisingly lucid conversation with a drunk economics professor who you recently discovered just killed a man with his golf club. You can't pull away from the conversation and aren't quite sure if the story is going to continue, or if he is going to explore a tangent more appropriate for an economics class or his therapist. HIs brain is amazing and his stories definitely titillate on several levels at once.

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • A Tan and Sandy Silence: A Travis McGee Novel, Book 13

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By John D. MacDonald
    • Narrated By Robert Petkoff
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (87)
    Performance
    (73)
    Story
    (74)

    Private eye Travis McGee outwaits and outwits a deranged killer as he searches for a missing wife on a remote Caribbean island, where he also tangles with a baby-faced businessman with a taste for murder.

    Darwin8u says: "Doesn't want the job, but doesn't mind the money."
    "Doesn't want the job, but doesn't mind the money."
    Overall
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    John D. MacDonald's pulp novels are a perfect beach read. They are unassuming, consistently over-deliver, produce better one-liners than a George Carlin set AND seem to have captured perfectly a very American, libertarian ethos of the mid-60s to late 70s. Travis McGee is consistently drawn into scrapes that he would rather avoid, beds girls he would prefer to ignore, and kills men he without relish. He perfectly fits Morrell's reluctant hero archetype:

    "a tarnished or ordinary man with several faults or a troubled past, and he is pulled reluctantly into the story, or into heroic acts. During the story, he rises to the occasion, sometimes even vanquishing a mighty foe, sometimes avenging a wrong. But he questions whether he's cut out for the hero business. His doubts, misgivings, and mistakes add a satisfying layer of tension to a story"

    MacDonald has perfected using the reluctant hero's questions, doubts, misgivings, and mistakes to add heft to his novels. McGee isn't a dime-store hero. He doesn't want the job, but doesn't mind the money, and it seems no one else is qualified to fix the huge mess that has fallen into his lap and seems destined to take him away from the bikinis, boats and beaches for a season.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • All the Old Knives

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 31 mins)
    • By Olen Steinhauer
    • Narrated By Ari Fliakos, Juliana Francis
    Overall
    (65)
    Performance
    (57)
    Story
    (55)

    Nine years ago terrorists hijacked a plane in Vienna. Somehow a rescue attempt staged from the inside went terribly wrong, and everyone onboard was killed. Members of the CIA stationed in Vienna during that time were witness to this terrible tragedy, gathering intel from their sources during those tense hours, assimilating facts from the ground with a series of texts coming from one of their agents inside the plane.

    Darwin8u says: "Pushing, incrementally, toward le Carré"
    "Pushing, incrementally, toward le Carré"
    Overall
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    First a disclosure. I'm a Steinhauer completist. I love Olen Steinhauer. For many reasons. First, he is one of the few, modern spy novelists that seems interested in writing quality espionage fiction, during a period when spy fiction is evolving as the business of espionage shifts. Second, Steinhauer is pushing, incrementally, towards the long shadow of le Carré. With some novels Steinhauer seems almost a breath away from le Carré. He isn't there yet, but he is close with 'All the Old Knives', and he is far closer than most of his peers.

    Spy fiction if it is unserious deals with violence, mystery, sex and an almost pornographic, hyper-nationalism. Great spy fiction deals with history, memory, loss, ambiguity, mistakes, regret, and deception. Steinhauer has written what can best be explained as a locked room spy mystery. It is at heart an interrogation that is highlighted with various forms of flashback. It is the intersection of two lives, two loves, and one dark, shared past, finally unlocked in a Carmel-by-the-Sea restaurant.

    This is a short book, but one that moves with a measured precision. This isn't a beach read. It is a book to read while you are waiting in a hospital to see if the lump is benign. A book to read while you wait for your spouse to return from a dangerous drive. It is a book that makes no easy heroes and leaves the final curtain cracked just a bit.

    15 of 15 people found this review helpful
  • In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Nathaniel Philbrick
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    Overall
    (883)
    Performance
    (500)
    Story
    (502)

    The ordeal of the whaleship Essex was an event as mythic in the nineteenth century as the sinking of the Titanic was in the twentieth. In 1819 the Essex left Nantucket for the South Pacific with 20 crew members aboard. In the middle of the South Pacific the ship was rammed and sunk by an angry sperm whale. The crew drifted for more than 90 days in three tiny whaleboats, succumbing to weather, hunger, and disease and ultimately turning to drastic measures in the fight for survival.

    Linda says: "Riveting"
    "Before you see the movie, but after you read Moby-Dick."
    Overall
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    "Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee."
    - Moby-Dick

    I've been wanting to read this book for years. Patiently it sat, right behind me, waiting. I enjoyed Philbrick's 'Mayflower' and 'Sea of Glory'. Given how much I love Moby-Dick, I'm kinda surprised it took me so long (15 years) to read this history of the Essex.

    Philbrick paces this narrative well. He patches together all the major perspectives. When the story leaves gaps, he dead reckons and is able to fill the story in with similar types of accidents, aggressive whale experiences, sailors, oil, blood, starvation, and -- well -- other episodes of cannibalism. He is able to humanize the captain, the first-mate, and the people of Nantucket (while also giving serious consideration for all the other sailors; those from Nantucket, outlanders, and black sailors too). It was a quick read, and compelling.

    12 of 15 people found this review helpful
  • The Third Policeman

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Flann O'Brien
    • Narrated By Jim Norton
    Overall
    (283)
    Performance
    (135)
    Story
    (135)

    Flann O'Brien's most popular and surrealistic novel concerns an imaginary, hellish village police force and a local murder.

    Weird, satirical, and very funny, its popularity has suddenly increased with the mention of the novel in the TV series Lost.

    Amazon Customer says: "Narrator extradinaire"
    "Hell is other people's bicycles."
    Overall
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    "Joe had been explaining things in the meantime. He said it was again the beginning of the unfinished, the re-discovery of the familiar, the re-experience of the already suffered, the fresh-forgetting of the unremembered. Hell goes round and round. In shape it is circular and by nature it is interminable, repetitive and very nearly unbearable."

    - O'Brien (omitted from the published novel)

    After finishing Flann O'Brien's dark masterpiece of absurdity, I wanted to jam a well-chewed copy of Joyce in one pocket, a copy of Sterne in the other, push a DFW in my back left pocket, put some dark strawberry jam in my back right pocket, turn left twice, exit into my tight little garage and immediately make sweet sweet love to the nearest bicycle available. No. Not yet. She's not ready, nor is my review. I'll pick up this peach tomorrow.

    So, it isn't tomorrow, but time and peaches are relative in purgatory. This is one of those books that is nearly impossible to review, but there is a space beyond impossible where letting go of this book exists. So, let's press forward shall we? The prose is amazing, funky; it floats and bursts from the page. Like Joyce and other Irish writers, O'Brien OWNs the English language (it is merely mortgaged to us mortals). Reading O'Brien is like watching one of those strange kids who can keep a soccer ball from ever hitting the ground. Gravity just doesn't matter. But let's bounce back to bikes and literature >

    So, Flann O'Brien's novel seems to exist in a strange purgatory between Sterne's 'The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman' and DFW's 'The Broom of the System'. It is full of digressions, wooden legs, bicycles, murder, policemen (obviously), footnotes*, and much much more. This is one of those novels where rules are murdered and post-modernism is both born and twisted. There are books that are written to be sold and novels written to be worshiped. Get on your knees fellow travelers and start praying.

    Norton's narration is brilliant. Seriously, BRILLIANT.

    *O'Brien was out DFWing DFW before DFW was born.

    15 of 18 people found this review helpful

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