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tom

wellington, New Zealand

7
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 12 reviews
  • 15 ratings
  • 61 titles in library
  • 2 purchased in 2014
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FOLLOWERS
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  • Kim

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By Rudyard Kipling
    • Narrated By Madhav Sharma
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (81)
    Performance
    (54)
    Story
    (52)

    Set in the days of the British Raj, Kipling's finest novel is the exciting and touching tale of an Irish orphan-boy who has lived free in the streets of Lahore before setting out, with a Tibetan Lama, on a spiritual quest. Kim later enrols in the Indian Service and simultaneously embarks on an espionage mission of supreme importance.

    Carol says: "Fabulous Narrator"
    "this book needs to be listened to"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    If you could sum up Kim in three words, what would they be?

    great spy story


    What other book might you compare Kim to and why?

    no other book. but there's a reference to it in frederick forsyth's "day of the jackal". which is a pretty good "spy" novel, too.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    the first 30 pages


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    BE THE TAG LINE BE???

    well, i wouldn't. it would be a pretty insufferable movie, with some horrible juvenile actor, and a lot of fake indian accents. the tag line would need to be "they finally ruined a classic".


    Any additional comments?

    this is a novel that most readers won't be able to get into simply by reading it, because it deals with a world that would be alien to a modern reader, incomprehensible. it needs a good reader to give the story a decent airing -- an audio version -- to bring out all the wonderful things that are inside it. this particular reading comes pretty close to being that perfect rendition. if you read the book yourself, the printed version, you'll spend four days in reader's heaven. whereas listening to it, you'll need to pay attention more -- it may take an hour at a time, over a couple of weeks, but once you've got your head around the whole book the first time, you'll be wanting to read it and listen to it again and again, or once every other year. that sort of thing. this is one of those books.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Amerika: The Missing Person: A New Translation by Mark Harman Based on the Restored Text

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Franz Kafka
    • Narrated By George Guidall
    Overall
    (18)
    Performance
    (11)
    Story
    (10)

    A Brilliant new translation of the great writer's least Kafkaesque novel, based on a German-language text that was produced by a team of international scholars and that is more faithful to Kafka's original manuscript than anything we have had before. With the same expert balance of precision and nuance that marked his translation of Kafka's The Castle, the award-winning translator Mark Harman now restores the humor and particularity of language to Amerika.

    tom says: "ha ha ha this is terrific"
    "ha ha ha this is terrific"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    i downloaded this quite some time ago and actually misplaced it somehow in the depths of my computer, and kind of forgot about it. this sort of thing CAN happen, believe it or not. a kafkaesque touch right there, to begin with. anyway, i listened to it now, almost a year later and ---

    it is a totally great book.

    the reader is terrific, even if he sounds like a person twice the age of kafka when that writer died, but he still sounds like a character straight out of kafka's book. i've heard quite a few audio readings of kafka stories and novels, and this must be the best of the lot.

    depending on your take of the story, you might view it as some kind of insane marx brothers comedy, or a demented woody allen story, or a tale of horror and oppression. but no matter, the reader is simply wonderful.

    top marks! this is the place to start with on kafka!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Tom Jones: The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling

    • UNABRIDGED (37 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Henry Fielding
    • Narrated By Bill Homewood
    Overall
    (14)
    Performance
    (13)
    Story
    (13)

    Tom Jones, a foundling, is brought up by the kindly Mr. Allworthy as if he were his own son. Forced to leave the house as a young man after tales of his disgraceful behavior reach his benefactor's ears, he sets out in utter despair, not only because of his banishment but because he has now lost all hope of gaining the hand of the beautiful Sophia. But she too is forced to flee her parental home to escape an undesirable marriage and their stories and adventures intertwine.

    Lawrence says: "Fantastic narration"
    "terrific story BUT"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    even the great w. somerset maugham could, on occasion, bore you to distraction, so his reaction to tom jones -- the book, the classic, not the singer, who came much later -- is of little consequence. he found the book unreadable, boring.

    well, the truth is that there's a great deal of utter waffle in this book, which could have been cut, snipped, abbreviated with no ill effect to the story, and in fact maugham did just that. as editor of a series of classic books he shortened tom jones and created a totally readable, totally delightful, version that could be appreciated by any mid-20th century reader.

    i find maugham's edited version quite satisfactory, and a delight to read. and maugham's version is only fielding's own version, as edited by a regular modern editor. any other editor today would have done the same, if this had been a manuscript submitted by a modern writer.

    so listening to a reading of the original version, with its overgrowth of diversions, digressions, and latin quotes is somewhat distracting. it's easy to lose the story, or the progress of the tale, and even in maugham's shortened edition there comes the point -- roughly around page 260 -- where the story finally grinds to a halt.

    but carry on, the book ends gloriously and you would wish that it could continue for ever on. this is a classic, after all.

    so my recommendation would be to read the book in some form, study notes, see the movie, read the novel or the maugham version, and THEN get down to the audible version. a great reader. but it took me to around book three or 15 per cent of the text, before i could finally get into the story and the language -- and this, despite having read the book and some secondary material about it. perhaps reading the printed book alongside listening to the audio format may provide a help in finding an easier and faster access to the author's circuitous style.

    if you find the book inaccessible, worry not. you've got w. somerset maugham on your side. or try to find a copy of his shortened version. it is by no means a "simplified" or "reader's digest" edition. it's simply a book for modern readers.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Being There

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By Jerzy Kosinski
    • Narrated By Dustin Hoffman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (217)
    Performance
    (194)
    Story
    (199)

    Academy Award winner Dustin Hoffman gives an understated and exemplary performance of this satiric look at the unreality of American media culture. Chance, the enigmatic gardener, becomes Chauncey Gardiner after getting hit by a limo belonging to a Wall Street tycoon. The whirlwind that follows brings Chance to his new status of political policy advisor and possible vice presidential candidate. His garden-variety political responses, inspired by television, become heralded as visionary, and he is soon a media icon.

    Ilana says: "Darkly Funny"
    "a great book"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    i've always liked dustin hoffman AND jerzy kosinski, but i was a tiny bit apprehensive if this was going to be any good. for one, hoffman has, as he has gotten older, acquired a certain set of actory habits that can be a little grating. and for another, there's the movie with peter sellers, which could get in hoffman's or kosinski's way here.

    so the pleasant surprise is that hoffman does a subdued job, you barely begin to recognise it's him, even. he rattles through the story at speed, keeping the listener's interest awake and well primed, and yes, there's clearly some irony here, and some satire, but the novel actually predates the reagan presidency, so it should not be confused with, say, a philip roth job on nixon.

    it's a short tale, and can be taken in during an afternoon's comfortable session with biscuits and coffee or cakes and ale. and will stay with you for a long time afterwards. i certainly enjoyed listening to this reading, having already read the book and watched the movie.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Thérèse Raquin

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs)
    • By Emile Zola
    • Narrated By Kate Winslet
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (853)
    Performance
    (781)
    Story
    (771)

    Once upon a time, a teenaged Kate Winslet (The Reader, Titanic, Revolutionary Road) received a gift that would leave a lasting impression: a copy of Emile Zola’s classic Thérèse Raquin. Six Academy Award nominations and one Best Actress award later, she steps behind the microphone to perform this haunting classic of passion and disaster.

    FanB14 says: "Wonderful Winslet, Satisfactory Story"
    "not sure"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    first of all, let me say that i've read this book and found it a good read, an interesting story, even if it's not always easy to get excited or keep a straight face about a story set in a previous century.

    i have no problem understanding british voices, since i've lived in new zealand for several decades, and new zealand is an english speaking country, if you didn't know. part of the british commonwealth, etc.

    but kate winslet strikes me, nevertheless, as probably a famous movie actress, but not actually as an exciting voice performer. she manages to swallow entire chunks of words or sentences, usually the tail ends, so that i have to get out the headphones and listen to her under headphones, and still i ask: what? what was that? what did you say?

    whether she ever had more than a tiny bit of high school french, i also can't tell, since all the french names and words appear to sound like some indefinite or undefinable nasal sound like "raw can" or "bomb bang" where you lose track of whether she is talking about a person, a place, or some other thing.

    this whole thing could have been read by anybody else, just as well, i mean, it didn't call for a british sounding young female reader, an american sounding middle-aged male reader could have served just as well. or possibly better.

    so i don't feel that winslet does anything for this classic. if you can read, read the book, yourself.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Slouching Towards Bethlehem

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 57 mins)
    • By Joan Didion
    • Narrated By Diane Keaton
    Overall
    (131)
    Performance
    (122)
    Story
    (118)

    Universally acclaimed from the time it was first published in 1968, Slouching Towards Bethlehem has been admired for decades as a stylistic masterpiece. Academy Award-winning actress Diane Keaton (Annie Hall, The Family Stone) performs these classic essays, including the title piece, which will transport the listener back to a unique time and place: the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco during the neighborhood’s heyday as a countercultural center.

    Victoria Wright says: "Didion deserves better."
    "KEATON DOES DIDION PROUD"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    quite by chance i seem to have downloaded three readings that sport a uniform cover design, and this one turns out to be pretty much as i imagine joan didion to sound. there's always a certain pretentiousness to her writing, where you think, what's all this verbiage for? keaton understands what she's reading, she slips into the text, as if she's actually written all this stuff herself, and yet manages to make it sound charming, rather than alienate me the listener. this is good, it's great, you could even just play it as background noise, it'd still be pleasant to the ear.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Painted Bird

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 13 mins)
    • By Jerzy Kosinski
    • Narrated By Fred Berman, Michael Aronov
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (81)
    Performance
    (53)
    Story
    (55)

    A harrowing story that follows the wanderings of a boy abandoned by his parents during World War II, The Painted Bird is a dark masterpiece that examines the proximity of terror and savagery to innocence and love. It is the first, and the most famous, novel by one of the most important and original writers of this century.

    Shawn says: "A guided tour of Hell."
    "what a great book!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    i read "the painted bird" when it first appeared as a pocket book around 1966 or 67, and was pretty much bowled over by it. curiously, despite the much later appearance of books like "bloodlands" by timothy snyder, which described, in gory detail, the unbelievable bloodshed that took place in that area, the "bloodlands" comprised of poland and the ukraine -- i.e., the "unnamed eastern countries" of the painted bird -- i never took kosinski's book as autobiography --- i imagined it more as a story about a "collective" character, a composite character, made up of the fates of several people that kosinski may have known or whose stories he had heard. it was, i thought, a fictional, or factive, story like günter grass's "tin drum" (based on WWII) or grimmelshausen's "simplicissimus", a story about a character lost in the terrors of the 30-year-war, of 1618-48. but also the book struck me as being on a par with those two books, which are classics in their own right, very well written, memorable. the character in TPB, a picaro, jewish, as in the very first picaresque novel i'd come across, lazarillo of "lazarillo de tormes", a spanish classic from around the time of christopher columbus -- so too, the little lazar, the little jew, in this book, wanders from one scene of horror into the next, as did the character lasik in "the stormy life of lasik roitschwantz" (1960) by ilya ehrenburg. another great book in the picaresque tradition and i'm sure one that kosinski --- an author much accused of plagiarism -- must have been familiar with -- even long before it appeared in english in 1960. the english translation of ehrenburg's masterwork is pretty poor, BTW, especially when compared to the wonderful german -- and vaguely yiddish-sounding -- translation of 1929. the point here is that kosinski's book is not without antecedent, but it appeared in the english-speaking world like a comet, out of nowhere, and certainly impressed with its blinding light. i was pleased to hear the book rendered in this un-hurried, slightly foreign-accented reading -- which could, for all intents and purposes --- be a deliberate "act", part of the voice-actor's performance --- and so, what of it? it increases the sense of verisimilitude, it improves the reading. which is totally wonderful! and yes, the book holds up remarkably well. another thing that was always obvious to me -- all the more so, when i read that roman polanski and kosinski had been friends or acquaintances at the lodz film school in poland --- was that polanski should long ago have made a movie of this book. it hasn't happened so far and may now be unlikely to happen at all. polanski did make a movie of dickens's "oliver twist", which didn't really go much anywhere beyond the level of an "illustrated classic" comic book. someday somebody may have to make that movie yet, and the more time passes while we wait for it to appear, the more the stature of the book will grow as one-of-the great-classics-of-the-20th-century-that-has-never-been-filmed, much as "the catcher in the rye" hasn't. kosinski's other great book, which i found on audible in a very calm and unaffected reading by dustin hoffman -- none less! to be sure --- is "being there", which also exists as a great movie, starring peter sellers. it just antedates the reagan presidency by a few years --- if it had appeared any later it would have been thought of as a parody or political satire. even so, it serves that purpose well, seen from today's vantage point. to wrap up the point i want to make here --- this is a great reading of a great book, and deserves all the stars it can get. i would point the listener to the shorter and very different reading of "being there" next. hoffman's reading, in its subdued, matter-of-fact voice, does the book justice, as does the sellers film, one of the great movies of the 1980s. reading, hearing and seeing just these two books should allay anybody's doubts about kosinski's true stature in american literature. "the painted bird" is a classic, and this is an excellent reading of it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Les Miserables

    • ABRIDGED (33 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By Victor Hugo
    • Narrated By Walter Covell
    Overall
    (115)
    Performance
    (42)
    Story
    (45)

    Les Miserables is set in the Parisian underworld. The protagonist, Jean Valjean, is sentenced to prison for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread. After his release, Valjean plans to rob monseigneur Myriel, a saint-like bishop, but cancels his plan. However, he forfeits his parole by committing a minor crime, and for this crime Valjean is haunted by the police inspector Javert. Valjean eventually reforms and becomes a successful businessman, benefactor, and mayor of a northern town.

    Leslie says: "astounding"
    "not miserable but poorly"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    this is the slightly abridged version, but appears pretty much complete. still, i felt a bit befuddled, as i started out listening to the story. who or what was it about? i realised it's a book from about a 150 years ago, but even so, the translation sounded a bit clumsy, unable to cope, in english, with the style and mannerisms of the author, things which must have seemed quite natural in the original. by chance i was listening to a complete german version of the same book, read by gert westphal, and it seemed to roll off the reader's tongue with a great deal more ease and facility. i downloaded a printed english translation -- a different one from the one used here -- which turned out to be older and much clumsier, but somehow showed a great deal more detail. still and all, it was difficult trying to read and listen to two separate versions of the book. in the end, having somehow found my way into the story, i just sat there listening, and i gradually accepted that this was all i was going to get.

    my feeling now is that a much more modern and much more fluent translation needs to be obtained from somewhere, and possibly be entrusted to a younger and less magisterial reader, who should potentially be someone with a smidgen of actual knowledge of french -- which zee present readahr does not appear to be endowed with to any degree.

    given that this is such a great book -- witness the westphal reading -- i think english language listeners deserve something equal if not superior, and this version is somewhat wide of the mark.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Ashenden

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 17 mins)
    • By W. Somerset Maugham
    • Narrated By Christopher Oxford
    Overall
    (2)
    Performance
    (1)
    Story
    (2)

    When war broke out in 1914, Somerset Maugham was dispatched by the British Secret Service to Switzerland under the guise of completing a play. Multilingual, knowledgeable about many European countries, and a celebrated writer, Maugham had the perfect cover, and the assignment appealed to his love of romance, and of the ridiculous. The stories collected in Ashenden are rooted in Maugham's own experiences as an agent, reflecting the ruthlessness and brutality of espionage, its intrigue and treachery, as well as its absurdity.

    tom says: "a jolly gay time at the spying business"
    "a jolly gay time at the spying business"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    as the author notes, right at the beginning, this set of stories is loosely based on his own experiences in the british secret service during world war one. now maugham is a very readable author, even at his unreadable worst, by which i mean to say that it is entirely possible to be bored by him and even put to sleep by him, but he's never bad company. his short stories, some of which run to 40 pages or so, are almost never boring, even if they are pretty predictable. they were written for the common man or common hausfrau of the times, and so they are rarely risking giving you a mental blow-out. his best stories are the spy stories about the writer/agent "ashenden", which together form a terrific spy novel. it's easy to see how this book formed the template from which eric ambler and ian fleming would take their inspiration for their respective spies. well, on the other hand it must also be said that at the time when maugham wrote these stories both the readers and the author were pretty discreet about some matters, such as their homosexuality, whereas a modern reader can't help but notice that all these characters in the book are manifest closet gays. well, much the same could be said about the characters in thomas mann's novels and stories, but "ashenden"'s 40 pages at the sanatorium beat mann's 1000-or-so pages of the "magic mountain" hands down, so don't allow this observation to ruin the fun for you. this IS a terrific book, and the audio reader here does it justice, very nicely. of course at some later date you should try and read it yourself. as i was saying, maugham is always very pleasant company, and this is probably the best place to start getting acquainted with him.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Blind Man with a Pistol: A Grave Digger & Coffin Ed Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Chester Himes
    • Narrated By Dion Graham
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (17)
    Performance
    (17)
    Story
    (17)

    New York is sweltering in the summer heat, and Harlem is close to the boiling point. To Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones, at times it seems as if the whole world has gone mad. Trying, as always, to keep some kind of peace - their legendary nickel-plated Colts very much in evidence - Coffin Ed and Grave Digger find themselves pursuing two completely different cases through a maze of knifings, beatings, and riots that threatens to tear Harlem apart.

    Parola138 says: "best narrator ever"
    "yes, no, and then again, maybe"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    a great book, originally published (in translation) in france, and with an ironic undertow, or overtone, that the present narrator basically ignores. annoyingly, you also get mispronunciations, like "cretin" (a moron) read as "Cretan" (a person from Crete), that make the AUTHOR appear as an illiterate, when it is basically the reader/presenter who is fraught with that problem.

    thankfully, audible offers a complete set of chester himes's novels, all of which are great. i know, because i have read them. he is, without doubt, one of the classic masters of the american crime novel. but i feel that he is being presented here, so very nearly completely, largely because he was a black writer --- in other words, as an exercise in political correctness. why else would dashiell hammett, raymond chandler, james m.cain, and a slew of other classic crime writers be missing in audible so d+++ near completely?

    having himes's very finely tuned novels read by such a masculine black voice identifies the novels as "black" but disallows for some of the literary characteristics to emerge, chief among them the author's humour and irony. chester himes may be writing stories set in a black milieu -- a very largely imaginary black milieu, originally created for the benefit of his french readers, since himes stood not a snow flake's chance in hell of having his books published in the US -- but when he writes novels in the mickey spillane mould, he does so almost tongue-in-cheek, exposing the injustices that "naturally" existed in a world divided into "black" and "white", back home.

    bringing these stories "home" to america in translation, or perhaps in their original language -- since himes did not write them in french, they only appeared in french translation, and were not necessarily even intended to be published in english, ever, or certainly not at the time --- they needed perhaps a black voice that sounded a little less strident, a little less like some cop show presenter, but rather, a more wistful voice, like that of a reader who had just finished reading the uncle remus stories. then again, i'm not suggesting that chester himes should be turned into some kind of benign teller of fairy tales.

    maybe a voice like eddie murphy's would have helped --- someone more sprightly, more willing to change his vocal range, or willing to giggle or in some other way suggest the different types of register found in this author.

    BUT -- you can always try again, can't you? that's the beauty of audible, that different readers can offer different perspectives or alternative takes on the same book.

    1 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Hunger: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Knut Hamsun
    • Narrated By Kevin Foley
    Overall
    (24)
    Performance
    (20)
    Story
    (19)

    Knut Hamsun's Hunger, first published in 1890 and hailed as the literary beginning of the 20th century, is a masterpiece of psychologically driven fiction. The story of a struggling artist living on the edge of starvation, the novel portrays the unnamed first-person narrator's descent into paranoia, despair, and madness as hunger overtakes him. As the protagonist loses his grip on reality, Hamsun brilliantly portrays the disturbing and irrational recesses of the human mind through increasingly disjointed and urgent prose.

    Erez says: "Book quite good; wrong narrator"
    "kanute is not a nut"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What did you love best about Hunger?

    sorry, too much structure. my mother spent her teenage years in sweden, and knut hamsun became one of her favourite writers. when she had my older brother, as an illegitimate basket baby sired by a turkish officer but born in vienna in 1939 she named him knut. pronounced somewhat akin to "kanute", not as "nut" with a silent "k". i'd never read a book by hamsun so i thought it was about time i started on one. someone asked me had i read a book called ....something like "hangar" .... and i misheard it as "hunger" and said, no, but i was planning to, soon.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    once i'd downloaded the book a couple of illnesses attached themselves to my heels like the hounds of hell, a viral infection akin to a flu and some other thing to do with my bladder and kidneys, like a sinus and cosine wave swinging together, and i was really badly ill for a couple of weeks and i could not even begin to listen to "hunger" without drifting straight off into algebra land.


    Have you listened to any of Kevin Foley’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    what i liked about the cover illustration on this one was that you could count the knobs on the backbone of the guy in the picture. i used to look pretty much like that, myself, and i also knew what hunger was.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    i listened to about five minutes of the reading before i ordered it, so i knew i was going to like the book. i'm still looking forward to actually hearing the whole thing, seeing as how i never managed to get into any hamsun ever before --- as a point of connection, too, with my mother who has long since passed to the other side.


    Any additional comments?

    am i imagining it to be a riotous laugh? something like "laughing gas" by wodehouse? not really. i can always go back to wodehouse, or kipling's "kim" or some other book. for the time being, this is the one i want to try and get my head around of, for whatever reason. or for whatever it is the reason that's there is trying to tell me.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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