I love Richard Russo's writing, most of his characters, and his sometimes offbeat way of looking at things. Unfortunately everything just can't be perfect all the time. I stayed with this because I truly enjoy Russo's writing and I wanted to see how everything turned out, but it was just so depressing that it robbed me of a fair amount of the pleasure I look forward to in his books. It's well-written, as always, just not something to pick up if you're looking to be entertained.
I would recommend it to someone that liked Tom Wolfe's writing but I would beg them not to buy it on audio. The brain can skip over words that are repeated in print because it allows your eyes to simply skim over them, but when you're listening to words spoken over and over it is maddening. One can't just fast-forward! Numerous times I had to force myself to continue listening to this book - I found myself saying outloud "I get it already - MOVE ON."
For the most part, the characters were one-dimensional and very unlikeable, but that really wasn't a big surprise. The story is about a bunch of self-centered people and even though the focus is on Miami, it could have been any one of dozen places. Nestor, Magdalena and the young Haitian college girl whose name I have already forgotten, were the only characters with any depth and they were pretty shallow. These just weren't people I'd care to actually know and I don't think Wolfe cared about readers liking these characters. The story, such as it was, just petered out, but by the end, I couldn't have cared less. The constant repetition of words for effect made me cringe. If I am capable of enjoying a Tom Wolfe book, do I REALLY need to have him beating me over the head with what is happening?? Does he really believe that his readers are too dense to imagine the sounds he is describing, or the feelings, or whatever is being repeated?
Lou Diamond Phillips did a wonderful job giving voice to the folks at the active seniors home, but otherwise it was so-so! It bothered me that he mispronounced words, however that was much easier to overlook than listening to him reading words repeatedly. LDP is a good actor and he brought a lot of life to the story, such as it was.
NO!! It's not a great story and the chances of getting a screenwriter and director who would turn it into something sparkling are slim. I wouldn't waste my money to see it in a theater and I doubt I'd even watch it on a premium channel - unless I absolutely had nothing else to watch.
Tom Wolfe is an excellent writer. He captures banality better than almost anyone I've ever read, but he also shared some thought-provoking insight regarding the great American mixing pot of Miami. One last thing - it is not yet against the law to text and drive in Florida as he had Nestor Camacho stating.
Going on a hundred years later, technology has changed, but attitudes, behaviors and what drives us hasn't changed much at all. I'm still not sure whether I'm saddened by this or strangely reassurred. No matter how much everything around us has changed,mankind hasn't. I used to wonder what "Nothing changes but the changes" really meant, but after listening to this, I understand completely.
As for the production itself, I thoroughly enjoyed what was, essentially, a 26-hour play without the visuals. Sometimes I allowed myself to focus on which actor was speaking rather than on what they were saying, but that's me and not a drawback unless you're apt to do the same. I thought it brought the book to life and this was a good vehicle for such a presentation.
This is a huge book to tackle and I was a bit doubtful about whether I'd really enjoy it. But, I did enjoy it and immensely so. It created a fascinating look at not only the history of New York, but of America as well. It would have been a five-star book had the ending not trailed off into a seemingly endless, inane, boring waste of time. I actually stopped before it ended, struck by how the ending seemed like something from another book or writer. As long as the reader is prepared for the tedious ending, the book is well-worth the time.
Shilts' background as a reporter served him well in writing this book. He goes in-depth and exposes the ugliness from all quarters, leaving nothing behind. I wish I'd read this long before now, but am very glad I took the time to do so now. If you're a student of modern history, this is a must-read, or must-hear. We're so used to accepting sound bites as being all we need to know without realizing, or sometimes even caring, about what might be hidden. "The Mayor" won't leave you wondering. It's also an often painful and stark reminder that bigotry and hatred come in every imaginable form. It could very well be standing right next to you or staring back at you from the mirror.
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