I hadn't revisited "Heart of Darkness" for decades until I listened to this audiobook. My impressions are simple and intense.
Regardless of the post-colonial critique of Conrad - he was, I believe, remarkably understanding of the wrongs of colonialism for a man of his time - the writing and the psychological depth of the novella are nearly unsurpassed in 19th- and 20th-century English language literature.
In addition, Kenneth Branagh demonstrates here the difference between merely passable or even good dramatic reading, and true craftsmanship. I can't imagine how the publisher lured such an amazing acting talent into doing the narration of a book in the public domain, but Branagh's rendition is the finest of any audiobook I've ever listened to.
I'm deeply impressed with both Conrad and Branagh.
Thank you, Audible.
William Manchester's biography of Douglas MacArthur is engaging, well reported and insightful. It's also for the most part a balanced view, though readers/listeners familiar with Manchester know that he has an occasional propensity to offer up tasty, if almost certainly apocryphal, details and snarky editorializing.
While listening to the book, I asked a number of college-age people if they knew who MacArthur was, and not one did. I suppose that's inevitable. But it's still sad and remarkable that such a towering figure of American history could be forgotten so soon.
Tom Parker's narration is very good, though it takes awhile to get used to his somewhat tinny, "1940s radio" voice.
An excellent book, well worth the 40+ hours it takes to listen to it.
First, prospective readers should be advised that this book is anything but self-analytical or polemical. It is, as its dust jacket suggests, a straight-up memoir, but unlike the best memoirs, this one lacks genuine introspection or cultural context. In other words, if readers hope to encounter a hard-edged story of the journey from faith to atheism, they are likely to be disappointed.
This is a surprisingly small-bore, sometimes dull, account of the life of a Southern Pentecostal preacher who vacillates and dithers about his beliefs throughout his life. It goes into great detail about his constant movement within the Pentecostal world as he tries to find "the correct doctrine" to inform his preaching so that he can lead the ultimate "revival."
The book ends with DeWitt feeling solid in his atheism, and perhaps that will stick. But honestly, he wavers and vacillates and dithers so often throughout his life, bouncing from one crazy cult to another insignificant, poorly paying country church, to high-powered jobs at city hall to ... let's just say the guy has a really, really hard time settling down, and many of his choices seem, on the surface, to be rather stupid. Given all that, it wouldn't be the least bit surprising to learn -- since it happens so often in the story -- that he has, once again, taken up the mantle of preaching and his newfound atheism didn't really stick.
And pity his poor wife, Kelly. He drags her and their small son through bad decision after bad decision, yanking them from poverty to relative comfort and back again, usually excusing himself with his "need" to preach. The fact is, DeWitt appears to bring much of the family's misfortune down upon them, because he is so conflicted about his beliefs and his "purpose" in life.
It's charming at first, but in time DeWitt's backwoods diction and pronunciation begin to grate. PENNY-costals ... umble (for humble) ... futher (for further) and on and on. He comes off as highly uneducated, which he is.
As a study in the weird world of PENNY-costalism, "Hope After Faith" is pretty interesting. Who knew these wildly judgmental people were constantly skirmishing among themselves about "correct doctrine"? DeWitt's attraction to it all, right up until his accidental exposure as a new atheist, frankly doesn't speak well of his own capacity for judgment. Then again, maybe it's simply the story of the power of early indoctrination.
The book is self-indulgent, in that DeWitt feels free to describe the delicious chicken-fried steak he had at Brother Bobo's house and the wood paneling at every country church. Yet there is surprisingly little insight or even narrative about his transformation of belief, which is given pretty short shrift.
Most people probably pick up this book hoping for more of the latter, and they will be surprised by the extent of the former.
It isn't a bad book, if you're looking for a minutely detailed, see-saw story of an uneducated Southern pastor and an exploration of the bizarre beliefs and practices of Bible-thumping backwoods Christians. But it falls woefully short if you are hoping to gain a deeper understanding of why and how believers come to unbelief.
I'm pretty sure I would find this book irritating even if I were reading it - more later on that - but this is wholly annoying to listen to. It's mostly epistolary, and that means an endless succession of this pattern: "Letter write/Quote quote quote. New letter writer/Quote quote quote. Author identifies his own voice/Words words words."
So, will I go off and buy the book instead? No, I won't, mostly because the authors are so enormously impressed with their own research that they feel compelled to give us ... ALL of it. So we get letters revealing the most boring, inconsequential details ... constantly.
Two stars is probably generous.
"Redshirts" is the most fun you'll have reading a didactic novel about the creative responsibilities of authors you'll read this year - or any year.
Some say the codas feel tacked on. I cannot agree. I see them as three short laboratories in which Scalzi is trying to put into practice what he's saying with the novel.
Fun, hilarious, mind-bending and in the end, surprisingly moving.
But I will second (and third, and fifty-eight) the critique of the maddening staccato of "he said, she said" that nearly drove me to distraction until (blessedly) my brain began to filter it out and the incidence seemingly decreased.
On the written page "said" is an invisible word, and awkward substitutions ("he ejaculated" ... "she enthused" ... "grandma retorted"), which Damon Knight called "said bookisms," are distracting. The problem here is that when read aloud, Scalzi's unfortunate tendency to slap an attribution on almost every bit of dialogue — "Yeah," she said. "You sure?" Dahl said. "Yeah," she said. "Let's go," Dahl said starts to feel like a jackhammer.
No joke: I almost stopped listening after 20 minutes. Maybe I wouldn't have been as sensitized had I not read some of the critiques of the "said madness" here on Audible.
Glad I stuck with it.
Gaddis is well-known as a conservative historian, so his take here is not unexpected: individual human beings, mostly with a "conservative" bent, brought down the Evil Empire and ended the Cold War.
I have no reason to doubt his analysis — he knows much more about it all than I do — though there are some who do.
As a listener, I found the book and audio both well done. That said, Gaddis is just a little too biased in favor of his preferred conservative outlook on history.
What he doesn't bother to even touch is the fact that, whatever its many evils, the imperfect application of Marxism in history forced previously callous capitalist societies to moderate in an effort to compete (as Gaddis asserts). Thus, the birth of the modern social welfare state.
But without any competing ideology since (more or less) 1991, the capitalist world has begun a retrenchment of welfare capitalism, despite its remarkable record from 1945-1980 (and beyond, though less and less each year).
Marx is dismissed as a fool for his lofty theories of history. But it's intriguing to see that, in the absence of a competing socialist ideal, the capitalist world is reverting to a kind of free-market anarchy, vastly widening inequality and amplifying unfairness. Ayn Rand! Ayn Rand is now considered a valid thinker on such things.
So was Fukuyama correct in pronouncing the end of history with the fall of Communism? No, he wasn't. We are now recreating the conditions for social unrest and anger that — nothing new under the sun — will, at some point, result in some kind of revolution from below.
That is, if we haven't totally surrendered to a new kind of pluto/autocratic capitalist state, in which state power is entirely in the service of the "haves."
The ultimate irony on this audiobook file: There is an excerpt, at the end, from a book about the failings of American political society, from gerrymandering that has left the House of Representatives very far indeed from being the "people's house," to massive infusions of money by the well-to-do and industry, to the *continuing* "military industrial complex" — nay, the now well entrenched and growing military industrial complex — that Gaddis rather blithely skips over, implying that with the end of the Cold War it just kind of ... went away.
An interesting book. By intention, a glancing view, but a solid overview. But how interesting that Gaddis, so certain of his theses, unironically supported the idiotic invasion of Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
In other words, he knows a lot more than I do about the subject. But I still take him with a grain of salt.
Jenna Miscavige has given us a deceptively simple glimpse into the terrifying interior world of Scientology. Her child's-eye viewpoint is in some ways more disturbing than the bizarre big-picture investigations we've gotten from such recent writers as Lawrence Wright and Janet Reitman.
I so enjoyed "The Count of Monte Cristo" and found John Lee's narration to be pitch perfect the entire way.
The story, despite a few seeming cul de sacs, ties together well at the end, and it seems that unlike "Les Miserables," the information Dumas presents really is integral to the resolution in some way.
Here's my question: Are we to assume that the Count manipulated *all* that occurred in his long quest for vengeance against Danglars, Villesfort and Fernand (and Caderousse)? In other words, did he carefully plot and plan all the happened, over the course of many years? If so, he was in some sense god-like in his abilities.
Or should we assume that there was some luck involved?
At any rate, this "children's story" (?!) kept me in rapt attention for 47 hours of listening. Not many books can do that. Outstanding.
Stout presents virtually nothing in the way of research to back up her broad assertions regarding the behavior and characteristics of sociopaths. One example of her egregious assumptions: all of the 9/11 terrorists were sociopaths, ipso facto. Her use of "composite" characters to tell what are admittedly fascinating and dramatic stories is no better, in the end, than fiction. I have a sneaking suspicion that Stout was in a close relationship with someone she believes to be a sociopath, and this book is in reaction to that. In many ways, the book is paranoid and irresponsible.
My attention span as a reader has decreased over the past decade - thanks, Internet - but I was thrilled to have "Moby Dick" read to me by Frank Muller, who did a great job. I knew I loved this book when I was younger, despite all my failed attempts to re-read as an adult. I'd rank it right up there in my top 10, and put it on my list of "difficult books worth reading" (which includes "Ulysses," "Gravity's Rainbow," "Under the Volcano," "The Sound and the Fury" and more).
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