... Or I guess I should say "I've heard better." I am a big fan of Mr. Trillin's writing, and have read most of his non-fiction over the years. He's a funny man, and a good writer.
That being said, there are a couple of flaws that make me not so fond of the audiobook. The first is that his reading is rather bland, and does not do his prose justice. Most authors should leave reading to the professionals, and Mr. Trillin is unfortunately one of them. The second is that the prose itself suffers from that characteristic flaw of first-time novelists who have been writing for many years: Many of the jokes and themes have appeared many times in his earlier work. (If you've heard the phrase 'sabbath gasbag' before, you'll be in my boat.) This detracts somewhat from the enjoyment. Though it evokes the same nostalgia one feels for the city that the rest of the book does, it's not so pleasant in the ideas of the book as opposed to the milieu.
Despite the title, more than half the book is stories about Reggie Pepper. Same flavor as the Jeeves books, and of course Wodehouse is excellent, but if it's Jeeves you want, you'll do better with another title.
The book is a fantasy, and cannot be judged within it's own twisted little right-wing foaming-at-the-mouth world. No one should be deceived into thinking it is 'fair', 'balalnced', or truthful. Any reasonable external review of its assertions will reveal that they are unsubstantiated and unverifiable post-hoc opinions.
That being said, I expect only those disliking John Kerry will be interested in actually reading this swill.
This is the very first thing I've downloaded from audible but not listened to all of. In the first 25 minutes of the program I got, they didn't take one call-- the show was devoted to thanking the sponsors, promoting their book, 'classic' rock lead-ins coming back from commercial breaks, and funny voices from their answering machine. Yawn.
Then they took two calls. In neither case did they listen closely enough to get the important details of the problem, though I did. They also missed the tenor of the question. Example: a woman called in about the rental apartment her daughter lived in, and a drafty window which she wanted advice about insulating. The hosts suggested a storm window. Good advice for a homeowner, but unlikely to seem attractive to a renter.
Car Talk works because the guys are funny, and because they listen to their callers and take all the time they need. These guys are not funny, do not listen, and make each call as short as possible. No, thanks.
Aspiring writers are often advised to write about what they know. Assuming the author took this advice, everything she knows about New Jersey, Italian-Americans, Las Vegas, manufacturing, police work and officers, criminals, and psychopathology came from Hollywood and TV. Next time, some research away from the screen would be wise.
Although part of the stereotyping may come from the narrator-- who overacts each of the different voices-- the author does not miss an opportunity to make a person's ethnicity stand in for their personality. From the Italian grandmother who sees visions to the pushy Indian mother trying to marry off her daughter to the overweight black sidekick, you will get no more sense of who these people are from the book than you did in this sentence. Oh, and New Jersey is tough and gritty, a place where a 'minor mob boss' can coexist peacefully with the authorities. Puh-lease.
The plot is there, but just barely. Our hero gets mixed up in some bad business, chases a few dead ends, suspects (for no good reason) the wrong person, and survives in the end. No spoilers there, I hope! I'd say 60% of the text is filler describing the characters going to the mall, doing random tasks (locking the car with the remote control-- no kidding? Wow!), being sexually aroused, or going about their jobs until it's dark enough to fit the next plot point.
The book is apparently part of series about the main character. The author does provide enough history and context to the unitiated. I did somehow care about her a bit, too.
There is some sex and (ooh!) orgasms. If that is what you are looking for, you don't need to suffer through the rest of the book to get it. If you want a mystery, you _really_ don't want this. If you want good writing, no luck here.
Harry Shearer does, as several other reviewers have noted, 'just' read the news, often with pauses to allow/force the listener to think about what was just said. The news is often 'funny', though in the painful irony sense rather than the mindless Gallagher sense. The funnyness is in the juxtaposition of the stories and his commentary on the news.
I often find that his reading is broader than mine, and thus I actually get news from him that is not played up by the herd media. Not that I need reasons to be angrier about the behavior of the federal, state and local government, politicians, corporations, and celebrities, but it is great to have the right person humiliate the offenders. After listening to each week's show, I feel vindicated and cathartically cleansed as by a Greek tragedy. Thank you, Audible, for providing Le Show.
The book is great, and well worth the time. The story and the writing really take you to the time and place-- more credit to Mr. Larson for his style and scholarship. Fascinating book.
To me, the audiobook was a mixed bag, though. The narrator over-emotes every sentence, and until the drama really heated up, I considered dropping the book-- I kept getting distracted by Mr. Brick's inappropriate, superior, and generally irritating tone. That being said, he seems to be some people's cup of tea, and if you like (or just dont mind) him as a reader, the book will not disappoint.
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