So, this Martin Amis can really turn a phrase. It's almost too bad I didn't read this in hardcopy, because I'd have been dogearing corners and grabbing a pencil every ten minutes to underline another gorgeous, gaudy, squalid sentence. The story is of a rich drunk scumbag (John Self!) on a downward spiral, and Amis is supreme at creating the seedy atmosphere with his outrageous similes and startling word choices, every paragraph dripping with flavor.
The tale is sordid, but not terribly dark; the protagonist is vile, yet I never found myself hating him. Perhaps this is because he meets the evidence of his most despicable deeds (most having been committed while blackout-drunk, careening wildly around the city) with a sheepish bafflement mixed with shame, as if he can't imagine how he got written into such a story. The book's wry, constant humor tempers his pathetic downslide and keeps it free of despair, as does its rather good-hearted ending.
The reader was perfectly chosen for this rapid-fire, stylish book; it's narrated in the first person, and he sounds like a very credible John Self, and fun to listen to. I highly recommend this audiobook, as it was a surprise find for me and a huge pleasure.
Scott Brick has certainly not been an acquired taste for me. After sitting through his narrations of Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead AND the entire Foundation trilogy (I can't even guess how many hours that adds up to), I resolved never to put myself through another one. My mistake. I bought several books at once and forgot to check.
He just lays it on really thick. The dramatic pauses, the hushed tones of horror... sometimes I think he's been listening too much to those guys that narrate action movie trailers (One Man... Has One Chance.... To Save The World...). I hate the way he reads. Yet he keeps getting jobs. Maybe I'm all alone? Maybe I'm being mean.
The book is interesting enough. I never see the point in summing up such a well-known classic; worth reading or listening to, at the very least for its place in literary history. This was one of those cases, though, where I perceived something about the book and honestly could not tell if my perception was based more on Capote's writing style or on Brick's performance: either way, it often felt heavy-handed, overwrought, somewhat precious, like the story was being milked, REALLY milked, for every possible drop of emotion and human drama.
I listen to a lot of British classic novels, and there's an overwhelming trend towards narrators with a very nasal, uppity-sounding English accent that grates on the ears. An expert in accents could probably identify the quality that I don't like; all I know is that THIS narrator is, by contrast, a great pleasure to listen to. Her speaking voice is gentle and beautiful and melodious. I could listen to her for hours... well, I did.
The story is of course typical Austen: predictably satisfying, tasty in that happy-endings-happen-to-good-people kind of way. You know what you're getting THERE. The excellent reading is icing on the cake.
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