Michael Prichard is up there as one of the dryest, clubfooted narrators of all time. How is it that he keeps getting gigs? I can't begin to number the number of excellent books he has ruined with his congested voice and passionless monotone delivery. Shudder-inducing. Many books, like this one, deserve much better. Michael Jayston, for example, could make the telephone book impossible to stop listening to.
Irvine Welsh was lauded when Trainspotting came out, for creating the kind of patois we haven't seen since A Clockwork Orange. Tam Dean Burn does a great job of getting the Glaswegian just right. I would say to most prospective buyers -- those who claim the performance is incomprehensible just haven't read any difficult literature. If you've worked your way through a little Chaucer, and especially if you're able to enjoy a Shakespeare play without too much head scratching, you'll do fine. To the others, I say: you need to read more, much more, "difficult" literature, until you've got a mental picture of a larger vocabulary. The latest Sue Monk Kidd or Donna Tartt isn't going to do it. Try Tristram Shandy.
Johnny Depp is just the worst narrator ever spawned. He may conjure up a lot of charisma in his pirate movies, but he can't read a book with passion, verve, inflection, or even interest. I know now why nobody takes him seriously, except, unfortunately, Keith Richards, who should have read this book himself.
I have noticed that O'Brien's soldiers do many things that, in Matterhorn, would get them killed. They put light colored objects in their helmet-bands, which the young Matterhorn lieutenant is warned against doing on his first night in the bush; they smoke cigarettes and weed in the bush on operations, which in Matterhorn "an enemy could smell for miles"; they wear machine gun ammo on bandoliers across their chests, while a Matterhorn sergeant warns troops leaving the base "to keep the ammo in the cans, so it won't fail when you need it."
These seem like differences which can get you killed, so who is right? Both O'Brien and served in the bush in Vietnam, but it would seem that one of them was making a lot of mistakes.
Great books, both, though. Great literature, not merely war literature.
This book is ok. It's overwritten, each sentence laden with cliches and padding, but it's a very fascinating view of the inside of the music production business. Who knew Phil Spector wanted to be a jazz guitarist? Or that Sonny Bono worked for him, and couldn't sing or even keep time? (Actually, anybody listening to Sonny and Cher probably knows that).
Dan Miller's narration is adequate, though he is overly emphatic with every cliche.The most fascinating thing about Miller narrating this particular book is that he is *THE DAN "GOOBER" MILLER* of Goober and the Peas fame. Who were Goober and the Peas? Only the greatest band you never heard of. They ruled the Detroit music scene in the early 90s. The dressed like Grand Ole Opry cowboys, but their music was a terrific psychobilly-swing-funk, with terrific lyrics and some of the tightest playing I've ever heard live from any band, even the most famous ones. In my mind, Jack White's greatest contribution to music was his drumming for Goober (didn't know that, did you?). Their music is still available on Amazon, and the reviews there are all as glowing as this one.
Goob, I cheered for you harder than anybody, and I traveled all around Michigan to hear you. You were the greatest, and you deserved to be one of the biggest bands of all time. You are very sorely missed.
I'm going to write this review for all of Scott Brick's books. It honestly doesn't matter how good the book is (in this case, Chernow is, as usual, excellent: he has the telling detail, writes with sweep and verve, excellent anecdotes) -- whatever quality the book may have is destroyed, utterly, by the incompetent narration rendered by someone who must have learned to read late in life. Scott Brick cannot grasp the rhythm of English prose; he seems to think that modifiers are extra important, because he gives each one EXTRA EMPHASIS. The result is this balky, juddering ride over bumpy terrain in an unsprung stagecoach. Let me sum up: Scott Brick is TERRIBLE. The fact that I have several Brick-wrecked titles in my library is a testament to how hope springs eternal in the human breast. He can't be really THAT bad, I tell myself, only to discover, $40 later, that he, in fact, is. Never again, I'd like to think. But, if I do, I'll have my punishment.
It always puzzles me how people can stand to listen to Scott Brick. I suspect they are people who have not read much. Scott Brick is unable to approximate ordinary human speech. He is CONstantly overEMphasizing ALMOST Every SYLlable. Get what I mean? It's like listening to most American actors do Shakespeare: most of the words are unfamiliar to them, and it's Shakespeare, right, so they think they're supposed to sound important. As a result, they sound like schoolboys proclaiming their first essay at school. Compare Denzel Washington with Kenneth Branagh.
In short, read like people talk. It's simply said, but, as Scott Brick proves, hard to do. I'm not saying I'd do any better. But at least I know good narration when I hear it. Examples: Christopher Hitchens; Grover Gardner: Master of the Senate; Jeremy Irons: Lolita; Juliet Stephenson: anything she reads; Bronson Pinchot: Matterhorn; John Castle: Vanity Fair; Nigel Graham: Lord Jim. Even Fredrick Davidson, alias David Case, even though his accent is hard to take sometimes, knows when to stress a syllable and when not to. He flows, wheres Scott Brick is constantly stubbing his toe against the English language. Also terrible, for the same reason: John Lee. Stop ruining books by giving them to these people. Just pay Juliet Stephenson whatever she wants to read everything.
I thought the novel was excellent. The dialogue is pitch perfect, the characterization very well done, the tension between the Marines in the company, and toward the battalion commander, was kept at just the right pitch. The entire shipboard experience seemed unrealistic, but that was a minor defect.
Bronson Pinchot, who was terrible narrating Marlantes' nonfiction account "What it is Like to Go to War" (he's overly emphatic, constantly overstressing words, like the execrable illiterate Scott Brick), is absolutely amazing here. His third-person narration was poignant, and I've never heard anybody do so many voices so convincingly. You'd swear there was a cast of thousands narrating this book. Really remarkable.
I agree with the reviewer who said that John Castle was born to narrate this book. I don't think his performance can be bettered. I had no idea that Vanity Fair was so good, or that Thackeray was such an interesting writer. It's hard to be in Dicken's shadow, I suppose. This was a great buy.
Nigel Graham's performance could not be improved upon. It's like Jeremy Irons' performance of Lolita, or Juliet Stephenson reading Pride and Prejudice. This is the version to get, unusual in that it's also the cheapest. Too bad Nigel Graham only read one more book worth reading.
I'm not kidding about the title. Wade Davis' other titles gave no indication that he would or could produce such a tour de force, but this book is remarkable. In my opinion, it's the greatest piece of narrative history since "The Guns of August", even though this book is only tangentially about WWI. Davis has Tuchman's ability to weave biography into historical narrative, to give comprehensive detail and broad overview simultaneously, and his prose is assertive and yet sometimes poetic. This is a really brilliant book, far greater than the sum of its parts. Maybe one of the hundred greatest works of historical literature.
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