.. both the author and the narrator. Having fallen in love with the story as a child (not through the book, actually, but in a sharply abridged audio dramatization I had on cassette), Pat Fraley had a tall order ahead of him. His experience as a professional voice actor (and not just a narrator) comes to bear heavily in his very well-done and authentic treatments of each character voice. This is not a small point given how important the notions of dialect and character are to the reason this book is such a classic.
Fraley's ability to perform such distinct character voices with good separation (that is, the difference between two voices so that they don't sound at all alike) is truly remarkable. Given the vast number of real and wonderful characters in this great novel, turning in even a passable performance is an enormous task.
My only complaints about the effort are that in some places, Fraley's performances do not match (or even reach the depth of feeling) in some of the key scenes that I have etched in my head from audio dramatization from my childhood, but this is hardly an apples-to-apples comparison, nor even of any interest to you if you didn't listen to the recording I did several hundred times.
If you're not familiar with the work itself, it is an outstanding character-study (one of those characters being the society of the day) that surprised me with the clarity of understanding Twain must have had of the lives and stations of all of his characters to have captured them so well. The only comparison I can draw of my expectation is to think back to the very first dramatic stories ever filmed and how laughably they captured the essence of the characters in them-- the contrast is that Twain's rendering of his characters should still be teaching writers lessons today.
And if you're a severe reactionary that is going to be totally put off by "The 'N' Word", this is a classic best left for others to enjoy.
The narrator is a well-known (in the voice business, anyway) voice actor who's done a lot of cartoon work. The effort involved in keeping the story clear to follow and engaging without the benefit of a lot of "speech tags" (i.e., "Tom said", "Becky said") is not inconsiderable-- there's a reason the narrator is so well-respected. I really did enjoy his performances, though I do think they lacked drama in some places.
It's definitely worth listening to if you have an appreciation for good acting work (especially voice acting)-- others may prefer a more conventional read.
The authors have taken something as cut and dry as economic analysis and applied those same principles to the things in our society which are the most resistant to an objective, non-emotional treatment: abortion, crime, poverty, children's academics. While you may not want to agree with their conclusions, there is only a little wiggle room in their methods for plausible argument. It's an eye-opening effort that, if nothing else, should spark fresh debate and reexamination of some topics we'd closed the books on years ago. Though, I do have to say, this book begs to become a series.. I have so many more questions that deserve this kind of treatment.
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