Why pick a narrator with a British accent to read Kerouac? Why make the jazz background music so prominent and incessant? Why abridge a work whose thorough, thick description is precisely the point? I'm a fan of Kerouac and have loved other readings of his works (I'm partial to Matt Dillon's reading of On the Road,) but I find this one marred by pretentiousness and difficult to appreciate.
This audiobook is a perfect example of how to artfully narrate a classic, and I was delighted to see it offered on audio. The reader gets the accents right, can pronounce everything he has to, and more importantly hits the perfect tone, not overacting the dialogue or injecting pathos, which lesser readers would be tempted to do. Instead, there's a restraint to the narration, which makes the few places where he does indulge a character voice, such as the super-bad King Barlo in the "Esther" story, all the more impactful. I found myself easily slipping into Toomer's imagistic trance, not pulled out by any affectations of delivery. Bravo Sean Crisden!
It should be noted that this is a complex, experimental book that rewards rereading. I'm not sure if listening is the way to go if it's your first time through, but as someone who has read and reread this book over the years, I loved hearing this audio version. It took me deeper into the text that reading alone has. I found the reader especially good with the poetry, where again the reader resisted over-emoting. The last section, Kabnis is a bit plodding, as it is written like a play, and the narrative doesn't always flow. But this is no fault of the reader; it's the text as Toomer wrote it.
Too often, classic, challenging works are severely botched in their audio versions. I hope producers and actors will follow the example that this one sets.
Robert is right. How did this get recorded and released with this major problem? This book needs to be rerecorded. As is, it's unlistenable.
Other reviewers who accuse Rushkoff of whining and calling everything fascist/nazi are disingenuous or haven't read beyond the first chapter. The author acknowledges the perils of a fascist diagnosis of America, and only makes the connection once, and he's no whiner. In fact, he admirably proposes plausible positive action to take to change the situation, and the situation is dire, as the author outlines in a brief history of the development of the corporation from the colonial era to the present. I agree with other reviewers who find him too pessimistic about the internet. In this part of the book, Rushkoff seems to too strongly delineate between profit and human meaning/value, unable to see how the internet might be both. But in general, this book is excellent, critiquing the commodification of human values and the loss of community in ways similar to academic critical theorists, but in a much more accessible way. Loved it.
I had no problem with the narrator -- his reading is unaffected. I loved the first half of the book, as the writer made philosophical connections between running and writing. His claim that writing is like summoning up a toxin from deep inside will stay with me forever. But in the second half of the book, it succumbed to the common error of fitness books by focusing only on the details of his own training, goal-setting, disappointments, and I stopped caring. Still, compared to the jockish egoism of so many running books, I was impressed and identified strongly with Murakami's individualist outlook and will now check out some of his novels.
Taste is subjective and reviews vary, but I was surprised to find this a boring read, since I usually am enthralled by this genre -- the novelistic, self-helpish fitness book mixing advice, philosophy, and narration. In this case, I tired of the focus on the wild-n-crazy cast of running rebels, etc., and wished there were more reflective passages, or broader discussions of running in history and physiology. Also, I wanted more on the Tarahumara's history and worldview. The closely narrated description of the many races in the novel bored me.
I found this book to be a fascinating work of hypothetical historical fiction. It begins slowly, in keeping with the pre-crisis gentility of its bookish, patrician protagonist, but picks up once presidential candidate Buzz Windrip takes over, becoming a vivid imagining of what American fascism might look like if it resembled that of Europe. Lewis wrote the book quickly and presciently in 1935.
Although there are numerous similiarities between the Corpo government and the Bush administration, Lewis avoids making this a simple trashing of Republicans, showing a Democratic candidate cynically using the leftist rhetoric of class liberation and social justice, only to then betray those ideals and swing hard right, as did Mussolini in Italy. The novel is especially poignant when it juxtaposes the mundane normalcy of smalltown life with the brutal violence of the Corpo regime. One character reflects that "The worst of it was that it wasn't so very bad," and this underscores Lewis's point that Americans are willing to tolerate things such as torture, racial discrimination, and imperial presidential power, so long as our private lives are insulated from them. Lewis champions "the free, inquiring, critical spirit" of classical liberalism as the solution to fascism and communism, which for him are equally totalitarian, but seems to contradict that solution in the book's final revolutionary chapters.
The narration is good, with variety in the character voices and unaffected delivery. Unfortunately, it stops on the penultimate page, omitting the final four paragraphs of the book.
Unlike other reviewers, I think plot is indispensable for good storytelling. Thus, I found this book frustrating. I listened, following along with the text, and consulting the websites where passionate fans chew on the intriguing set pieces that Pynchon offers. The many settings, characters, networks, and theories never cohere, and most of them never connect into any overall thematic or allegorical meaning. But there's lot of richly ambiguous symbolism, a sort of alchemical semiotic miasma using light, day, gold, silver, abstract math (fourth dimension, quaternions), and doublings (paired characters, worlds, realities). This book seems to be an attempt to tell a story set in the past that is emphatically non-historical insofar as history is defined as a grand narrative. There's no God-like narrator, no attempt to frame the individual stories within a larger sense of the historical moment. Instead, there's an unmasterable heap of details and small plots, similar to the way that life is really experienced. There's a lot of wacky humor, such as an opera entitled The Burgher King, a Middle Eastern assassin named Al Mar-Faud, dressed in English hunting tweeds and a shotgun, ("Gweetings, gentlemen, on this Glowious Twelfth!), and very little of the urgency and tragedy that I need in a novel of this length to keep me interested. I forced myself through this book because I'm interested in the ideas and in the potential of experimental postmodern narrative.
The narrator is stupendous, bringing this very difficult book to life with an astounding array of accents deployed consistently. He also pronounces the dozens of obscure and foreign phrases accurately, a remarkable feat. Most importantly, he achieves an understated tone of muted irony that perfectly matches that of Pynchon.
The story is interesting enough. The reader's accents, however, are (unintentionally) hilarious, affecting a thick "Noo Yawk" accent reminiscent of Tony Danza. Equally inept Australian and Russian accents also are heard. This reader has formed his idea of an American accent by watching the Sopranos.
The audio sample alone makes clear exactly what's in store: A historically fuzzy, dumbed-down, pumped-up take on classic thought. The reader's tone reminds me of that loudmouth jock that rode on my high school bus.
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