Oh no. What should have been a fun read (and it was fun when I read the preview pages to myself on Amazon) was a nightmare of overwrought "acting". Nemcoff is yet another Hollywood hack who decided a stunt book like this was his ticket to making rent. The content, culled from personal anonymous PA stories is not that bad. Sanitized and anonymized, but interesting. Unfortunately, his delivery comes off as a clumsy "Reading Rainbow" impersonation , as if the audience were children, intoning emotion and emphasis seemingly at random, with no value added to the tales. But don't take my word for it...
Tom Wolfe is top notch. Here is a fascinating story of race, politics, human capital, and the struggle of life, both ordinary and extraordinary, told from myriad perspectives. Nearly thirty years after its initial publication, the themes explored by the book will strike familiar chords in the wake of Enron, Lehman Brothers, and Anthony Wiener. The privileged screwing over the poor, self-destructive narcissism, the perils of ambition- all are present and examined with Wolfe's trademark low-key wit.
Ironic then that Joe Barrett's atrocious, arguably racist performance of the book will leave the listener scratching their head with questions related to the "post-racial" society in which it was recorded. White characters, including those with British, Bronx, and Yiddish accents are well within his wheelhouse and he performs these with aplomb. But when charged with rendering accurate portrayals of Blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities, Barrett reverts to a comical southern drawl somewhere between Foghorn Leghorn and Uncle Remus. If you doubt my assessment, simply listen to the first five minutes in which the put-upon Mayor of New York is lambasted by Harlem hecklers, rendered in a dialect that makes the Black Crows from "Dumbo" seem like Jane Elliott by comparison.
I don't blame Barrett; he's a decent reader. His other work is better and this book was a real challenge. But the producers at Blackstone should be ashamed. It is unbelievable that this recording was produced in 2009 and released as-is. There are plenty of other performers (Dion Graham comes to mind) who could have delivered a better experience. Then again, considering that most audiobook listeners are White, affluent, and well-educated (including yours truly), it's no big surprise that the production values mirror the general indifference of the target demographic.
But not all is lost. At first, I was annoyed that the performance was distracting me from the content of the novel. But then the failings of the recording began to mirror the issues raised in the novel and I came to enjoy, even relish the surreal, recursive experience. Marshall McLuhan was right- the medium is the message, and that message is Ouroboros the snake, choking on its own racist tail from high above the digital divide. Hooray for the future!
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.