Here's the autobiography of the 40 Year Old Virgin. John recounts growing up with Owen Meany -(aka "The Granite Mouse) - a small boy of no small significance. The dialogue between Owen & John sound out common beliefs & attempts at religious belief that each of us goes through at some point in our lives. Owen's faith was tested by the nature of his tiny stature & strange voice. John's faith is damaged by the untimely death of his beautiful mother when she is killed by a foul ball hit, surprisingly by none other than John's best friend, Owen. Now John will never know the identity of his real father.
The story is an account of a boy's life from age 10 to adulthood. It is a paternity mystery & a story about the significance of religious belief & the need to believe that God has a plan for each of us, that nothing happens by chance, & that though we may not see Him, we know He's there.
This is not a religious story, however, though it tackles in an ingenious way many of the religious conundrums that most thinking people wrestle with everyday.
A huge fan of John Irving I can highly recommend A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY as a superbly written novel full of hillarious & thought provoking concepts; a fascinating plot & a final touch of spiritual growth serum. READ THIS BOOK & if you don't like it, then you're probably not good for much anyway. (Admittedly the "interview with the author" somewhat ruined the story for me, so I'm glad I listened to the interview last.)
The Moonstone is an excellent example of discretion gone too far. The book, like some more contemporary portrayals of past societal etiquette, (e.g. Downton Abbey) gives an example of what, from the outside looking in, or back in this case, seems a ridiculous series of unfortunate events that might have been overcome by a little more honesty and alot less histrionics portrayed as romantic notion or societal anx over public image.
Bound by the societal status & expectations of their time, the characters in The Moonstone are subject to criticism only from a contemporary and more American point of view. In their own time the author has presented an interesting mystery with elements of the supernatural, predicated on superstition and racial stereo-types of things foreign or unknown to English Society. The characters seem to overlook the fact that the jewel in question was actually stolen in the first place from a foreign country before their own mystery of the jewel's subsequent whereabouts really begins.
Not realizing that the story has multiple narrators (by point of view) I originally wanted the book because I am a fan of anything narrated by Patrick Tull. However, the other narrators are not too bad and Tull does narrate the part of my favorite character. I particularly liked the Robinson Crusoe reference as a panacea for what ails and believe that Tull always does an excellent job of lending the perfect measure of humor and gravity to be adminstered as needed.
Like any mystery there were some "red herrings" in the story that might have been better left out of the characters' experience as well as the readers', but overall this was a good book and has my recommendation as a worthwhile audiobook listen.
As enjoyable as the Flashman books may be and as accurate as David Case's narrative style and Flashman's honest admission of his own shortcomings may be, it is never wholly clear whether the author intends to offend the reader with the near gratuitous use of racial slurs, or to simply relay the attitude of the time, which Flashman inhabits. On the contrary from interviews with Fraser about the "good ole days" it is clear that Fraser recalls "days" that never were all that "good" in the first place for most people simply because he fears being condemned in the "good new days."
Indeed it is unlikely that Flashman's excessive use of that ever-dreaded & all too reminiscent "N-word" has anything to do with historical accuracy or even with the illustration of Flashman's low character. Instead it seems that Fraser is infusing his own racial prejudices into the book. Africans, Indians, Arabs, etc. all have their good qualities for their own kind, but their "kind" remains a step below their Caucasian counterpart no matter how hard the former try to be like the latter. Fraser seems to have an inherent and embedded belief that the closer a culture or race is to his own race, no matter how sarcastic Flashman's ridicule may be of "his" race, the better and more civilized that other race is.
In short the plot and the humor are severely undercut in this book by the overuse of offensive and unnecessary prose. If intended at all, Fraser certainly fails to redeem his main character's racial prejudice and this weakens the book tremendously. It's as if Fraser is attempting to toughen what he believes to be the universally metro-sexual reader of today by overdoing the worse parts about the past. Being offensive is no real defense against fear no matter how much Fraser seems to believe this to be the case.
Were he still alive I would love to see Fraser read this book aloud in front of a contemporary, though uneducated, racially diverse group. I doubt he'd agree to do it and more to the point I doubt he would be allowed to complete a paragraph.
Within the first 15 minutes of this audiobook I am struck with how annoying the reader is and again baffled as to why authors would allow different narrators to work on the same book series. It breaks the continuity and the effects are worse when the replacement narrator is so much worse. What seemed like an interesting and even noble story of Julius Caesar has become, with the change of narrators a tale of pompous Roman ridiculousness like reading Flashman at the Charge and taking it seriously. The story will barely survive the narrator change for books 2 & 3.
It is always difficult to keep any series interesting or even exciting without the introduction of new characters or the invention of a magnificent plot line. Otherwise when main characters do not die despite all the odds the book (as in this series) becomes predictable & boring. I think this would have been better as a 3 book series with less characters & less "elements". I also agree that though I love a happy ending with ample allocation of "come-uppings" & "just deserves" that this final book wrapped up too neatly with too many good guys coming out on top. Also while I liked the robot factor I did not like the human emotions attributed to these robots, who could not be introspective & perhaps did not need chapters devoted to their own point of view. This series was too long, but otherwise reasonably entertaining.
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