I put off reading this because so many reviewers compared it unfavourably to Snow Falling on Cedars but I felt just the opposite. Guterson has learned something about making his characters more believable and lost none of his exquisite sensitivity for the northwest coast setting. The story is better, too.
Every country should be so lucky as to have a history like this that punctures all the carefully concocted national myths and gives the contrary view--in Zinn's account George Washington was a wealthy landowner who fomented revolution for personal gain; Abe Lincoln believed blacks were not equal to whites and only abolished slavery out of political expediency; FDR was a staunch defender of upper-class privilege who only introduced the New Deal to defuse revolt; etc. But Zinn is not just a gadfly--his version makes sense more often than not, and furthermore, his great sense of story gives hackneyed old history new life and makes for highly enjoyable entertainment. And don't pay any attention to the quibbles about production quality--the actual reading is fine and the few technical glitches there are barely deserve mention.
As an early adopter of audio, I started when classics were most of what was available and it was fortuitous because it caused me to re-read most of the great books and realize how much more they had to offer than I had got from them in callow youth. Recently I realized this was one I had missed and I was excited, knowing many consider it the greatest French novel.
Having finally got through it, I must say I am disappointed. It wasn't a terrible book. It was probably quite advanced in its day, just like they say. It was one of the first to dramatise the inner life of a rather undistinguished person. Trouble is, so many have done that since and so much better, that doesn't score many points with a modern reader.
The hero, Julian Sorel, is a carpenter's son who aspires to elevate himself to the upper middleclass, mostly by sleeping with the right women. But he is not dashing or amusingly scoundrely, he is insecure, self-absorbed and generally unappealing. His chief assets are a freakish memory and matinee-idol looks. He does get on, mostly thanks to friends (especially women) who are a lot better than he is, but screws up all his chances due to his own weak character and lack of sense. By the time the book ends the reader is glad to see the end of him. The book is touted for its satirical view of 19th C. French society but that is very much in the background of the hero's struggle and not neary so vivid or amusing as in almost any novel by Balzac. I was throughly captivated by Pere Goriot and Cousin Bette, but found the Red and the Black a slog.
I didn't notice anything wrong with the quality of the sound or reading.
Supposedly the first in the Reacher series though written last, this might also be the best. Reacher is more human-scale here and has an actual affair, there is some good suspense and some good characters. It is not quite so violent as a normal Reacher outing; there are only three murdered women and he only illegally blows the head off one bad guy. Like all Reachers, it rates high in can't-put-downability.
Reacher wanders into a town held hostage by some bad old boys and cleans it up, freeing the people from oppression, especially the ladies. Along the way he barehandedly humiliates a palace guard of 300-pound former fooofballers and viciously murders about a dozen leading citizens and gangsters without having to answer for it. I can say all this because there is really no suspense in a Reacher novel; you know whatever the dire circumstances he must triumph in order to appear in the next book, and it usually doesn't take him long. This one is a lot less credible and likeable than The Affair, but it sure keeps you turning those pages.
If there is any justification to the dustjacket claim Pinker is one of the world's 100 most influential thinkers, it is based on his talk show appearances, not his standing among peers. His basic thesis is that recent scientific discoveries have proven social conservatives right about the need for military buildup, a get-tough approach to crime, strict parenting, etc. Affirmative action is a waste of time because it tries to change behaviour that is hard wired into our genes. America and the other countries most like it are the pinnacle of human evolution, because, well, evolution has produced them and therefore they must be a true expression of the unchangeable programming carried in our genes. No wonder Time put him on its cover.
This is one of the great listening values in Audible, for my money. Thomas Heald is a great performer of oldtime cracker accents and the production is half the fun. Skinflint that I am I always seek out the longest reads that are still on at one credit and sometimes outsmart myself (Against the Day) and I was a bit afraid of this one because it sounded like a Faulknerian ramble through lush literary effects without much plot--which it was--but the story of this charismatic man in this bewitching place in this mythic era was just so powerful it kept pulling me along. This is one where you truly do emerge as from a long consuming dream-mare blinking at the light of day, the spell clinging as you reorient yourself reluctantly to the oridinary world. Lots of people who should know are applying the word "great" to it and it isn't misplaced.
What ever made Wolfram Kandinsky think he could read audio, and what ever made Blackstone hire him? I have never bought an audio book of his where I didn't have to fight the urge to erase it, and several times I have. But I love Conrad so much I took the chance I could enjoy it in spite of his affected, nasal, irritating style. Alas, even Conrad can't survive such treatment.
This short novel of two survivors of nuclear war should be depressing but somehow it's not. An unnamed man and his (6? 7? yr old) son crisscross an America reduced to ashes dodging murderous gangs and eating seeds. The mother has given up and suicided; whether to give up or maintain hope under such bleak prospects is the ever-present question.The father has strong faith, but he is dying of lung cancer. So what is the good news? The beautiful innocence of the boy and the worshipful love of the man. These two brilliant emotions cut through the gloom, making this McCarthy's warmest and most hopeful book. It is also perhaps his best written. It is a small masterpiece like The Old Man and the Sea.
When I read the blurb calling this the last great American novel of the 20th C., I thought, wow, that's a bit over the top. But now I heartily endorse the claim. This is right in there with the top 3 or 4 reads I've had in 10 years of listening to audio books. And the best thing about it is Audible has three more unabridged Russo novels and they're all pretty much as good. The reader is good too.
I doubt I would have become a Russo nut and read every one of his books if I'd read this one first. It's not bad, just unremarkable. The funny thing is that at least one of the stories is obviously a dry run for one of his novels. I'd say on balance the story is not Russo's metier.
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