. . . but oh my, the narration. Sounds like some sort of smoking cessation tape you put on before falling asleep. At first I thought I'd never make it through to the end. After a half hour, or so, you can get used to the narrator and start enjoying the book. No doubt a 4 to 5 star book, in written form.
A superbly written, personal account of the Vietnam War told with absolutely pitch-perfect narration. Porter's performance empowers and invigorates Herr's writing in the same way a great actor breathes life into Shakespeare. Dispatches is not a linear history of the war or a chronology of Herr's experience. It is a series of vignettes, impressions and reactions to something Herr knows he will never comprehend. He writes masterfully of war's effects and how it feels.
. . . to enjoy this book.
I'm a phase reader. Typically, something will spark my interest in a particular historical person or period, and I'll read several books on the topic before some other spark leads me elsewhere.
In a classical history phase, I listened to "Caesar's Legion" in its entirety, without my interest waning. The details of everyday life in a Roman legion, its recruitment, training, chores, etc. is balanced by the great events and personalities of the time.
I think it can be more difficult sorting out some of the similar sounding names and places of the classical period without the visual cues of print, but I don't mind not having an exact grasp of incidental geography (northern Egypt or western Armenia is good enough) or an assured understanding of each and every proconsul and tribune of the period.
Purists may be put off by a lot of the speculative description the author employs--"Pompous Hubris would have jumped to his feet and rushed to wall for a view of the enemy's approach, barking out a string of orders as he ran"--but he rarely goes beyond this sort of likely human behavior.
The narration, like a lot of others I hear, seems like it may be problematic at first; but as usual (for me, anyway), after 10 minutes, or so, it becomes unobtrusive ... and by the end, you can't imagine any other voice reading the story.
This is not a dense, scholarly tome. A general reader, with an interest in the period, or one just passing through the epoch, should enjoy it quite a bit.
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