In the best British tradition of the Christmas ghost story, Rickman creates a spookily atmospheric tale of a medieval Welsh abbey which has a history of horrific December deaths and accidents dating from the 12th century to the present. The cast of characters revolve around a group of aging rockers who are the survivors of a disastrous recording session in the abbey studio on 12/8/1980, which also happens to be the day the former Beatle, John Lennon, was shot to death outside his Manhattan apartment building, an event which plays a significant role in the unfolding of the story.
Be forewarned that the prologue and the first few chapters are confusing and quite difficult to follow as the narrative washes between epochs and characters, none of which are familiar to the reader as yet. These characters and events begin to sort themselves out as the book takes on a more straight-forward narrative approach as the book progresses.
Sean Barrett's narration is excellently suited to the material and this audio version is enhanced by riffs from songs purportedly recorded in the abbey sessions.
A wonderfully dark tale for the nights of the winter solstice.
Although it has been more than a decade since this book was written, it remains as mind-boggling as when it was first published. Here, Ronson delves into Islamic fundamentalists, David Icke with his theories about reptilians in control of the planet, the Bilderberg Group and the shenanigans at Bohemian Grove.
We are often left wondering who the real extremists are: Is it David Icke who maintains that world leaders are really reptilians in disguise or members of the JDL who insist that "reptilian" is code for "Jewish" ("No, he really means 'reptilian'" Ickes' followers claim)? Is it the Weaver family holed up on Ruby Ridge or the quasi-military force that took them down (a very sad episode)? Part of what makes Ronson's writing (and excellent narration) so compelling is the way he juxtaposes the ordinariness of every-day lives of these people with the often bizarre extremist views they hold.
A both informative and very enjoyable listen.
This book is both very strange and VERY slow (both in content and narration). The allusion to Proust is apt as it originates in the book itself which contains repeated references to Proust’s 7 volume “In Search of Lost Time,” best known for its obsessive preoccupation with even the most trivial minutia of daily life. A variant of Proust's style is employed in this work to describe a parallel fantasy world of 1984 Japan in which there are 2 moons, the world is controlled by undefined "little people" who emerge from the mouths of dead animals and humans to create doppelgangers of existing people, and in which immaculate conceptions can occur. Despite overly frequent references to genitalia, sex, menstruation, etc., erotic is the last thing this book can be described as.
To be charitable, my guess is that this book does not translate well--either figuratively from a cultural standpoint, or literally, as the language often seems clumsy and stilted. Although there are frequent allusions to Western culture, the feeling of the book is more akin to that of the highly stylized form of Japanese Kabuki theatre--the characters seem to be stand-ins intended to represent concepts or principles rather than real people and it's difficult to empathize with them or care about their fates. There were probably some symbolic references which could have been gleaned from the various facets of the fantasy world, but frankly I was too exhausted from the book’s ponderous verbiage to have the energy to figure them out.
If you still think this book might appeal to you, I would recommend playing it at 1.5 speed. I did this for the last 3 sections—it helped me keep from tearing my hair out over its excessively slow pace and actually enabled me to finish listening to it.
For those who have a long-standing interest in Lincoln/Civil War history, or for those who saw the film "Lincoln" and wondered what happened to Mary after her husband's assassination, this book provides a fascinating coda to the Lincoln saga.
There are many accounts which attest to Mary's erratic and tempestuous behavior during the course of her marriage. After her husband's assassination in her presence, she managed to more or less hold things together until the adolescent death of her son,Tad, finally sent her over the edge. Anyone familiar with Lincoln lore knows that Mary, though totally devoted to Abraham, was never the most stable of individuals--but during the course of her life she was subjected to a degree of tragic loss that would unbalance many far less fragile than she.
My only complaint about the book is that its thrust seems to be a defense and justification of Todd Lincoln's conduct in having his mother involuntarily committed. I don't necessarily disagree with the author's conclusions, but I do think his interest in exonerating Todd does at time skew his analysis. Nevertheless, the book provides a valuable addition to our understanding of the Lincolns, 19th century women's history and the state of 19th century mental health care.
A rather disappointing collection with predictable plot-lines and few original ideas. Narration was mediocre at best. Generally left me feeling sleepy rather than creepy.
Unlike other reviewers, any intended humor in this work largely eluded me. To me the most appropriate adjectives describing this book would include dark, sad and frightening. What is disturbing about "Y," the "visible" (really invisible) man of the title, is the same thing that is disturbing in the idea of a ghost--that is, the idea of an intelligent, invisible presence following, watching and at times interacting with us in our most private moments. What makes the character of Y additionally loathsome is his sanctimonious arrogance in assuming his right to act as he does.
I confess that I am genuinely puzzled as to what others found funny in this book. I can only imagine it consists of the sections detailing the private behavior of those Y chooses to watch in the seclusion of their homes. I found these sections more sad than amusing since they show human beings at their most vulnerable--letting down their guards and casting off the persona they assume for the benefit of the rest of the world. Y's conduct in these circumstances is nothing short of despicable.
There are interesting ideas suggested in this book but ultimately none of them are really developed satisfactorily. Neither of the 2 main characters are at all likable,which makes understanding just what makes them tick that much more difficult. I'm giving this book three stars overall because it is well-written and did hold my interest, but I admit that it left me feeling slightly nauseated--perhaps what the author intended but not really my cup of tea.
Fans of David Sedaris rejoice--this is his best collection of essays since "Me Talk Pretty One Day"--at least in the humble opinion of this reviewer. Sedaris is in top form here on topics ranging from airline travel to the pitfalls of foreign language instruction (Japanese, German, Chinese) to the casual everyday cruelty of children--and of adults, for that matter. The tone is in turn poignant and sarcastic, and always unflinchingly honest.
Sedaris' humor has an edge to it and he doesn't spare himself from its blade, but he unfailingly finds the comedy in his experiences and invites us to do the same. His turn of phrase manages to state truths while at the same time being very funny--one example I can't get out of my head is his observation that Americans see Australians as "Canadians in a thong."
While one or two of the essays had a familiar ring to them (perhaps from a version appearing on an episode of This American Life?), the material is almost all new as far as I can tell.
Sedaris' deadpan delivery style greatly enhances the listening experience--this is certainly an instance where the audio surpasses the print version. Highly recommended!
What do fairy tales tell us about ourselves as human beings? Graham has written a deeply mysterious novel about a 15 year old girl, Tara, who goes missing for 20 years and then suddenly reappears without seemingly having aged more than a few months.
The story draws upon fairy tales, folk-lore and psychology in seeking some sort of explanation for Tara's strange disappearance and reappearance. It is a modern re-telling of the classic story of claimed abduction and missing time and raises the question of why tales like these are such a perennial aspect of human culture--whether the claimed abductors are fairies, demons or UFO aliens.
The title of the book says it well; it really is "some kind of fairy tale" and it will leave you wondering...
If you stop to think about it, stories are the framework around which we build our understanding of reality--whether the stories revolve around history, religion, myth, nationality, science, gaming, drama, fiction or our own lives.
This is Gottschall's premise and he makes his case pretty convincingly. The book does drag in parts and significant sections consist of summaries of materials covered in more depth in other books. However, unlike some other reviewers, I particularly enjoyed the sections on brain science and the role story plays in our dreams, in mental illness and in the development of human culture. In one example, the author contends that at root, the malaise of depression is the loss of our own story and the effectiveness of talk therapy is in helping us to rebuild our own personal narratives. Although the author doesn't take this step, one might argue that whenever a story loses its vitality, whether it is the story of a nation, culture or religion, it is only a matter of time before the demise of that institution inevitably follows.
Not surprisingly perhaps given his premise, the best parts of this book are in the stories. Narration is sub-par particularly when the narrator ineptly (and distractingly) attempts various accents.
The best books, both fiction and non-fiction, create a world in the mind of the reader that is as real as the world in which the reader actually lives. If that is the case for the reader, it can only be more so for the author who has become totally immersed in the world he/she is creating.
Neil Gaiman is a connoisseur of literature that skirts along the edge separating the world of the mind and the world around us. While I haven't been thrilled with every NGP selection, this one does not disappoint, as it follows the career of a young aspiring writer, Tom Abbey, who wants to write a biography of the author whose books created an imaginary world into which Abbey retreated as a child. That author's adopted home town turns out to be a very strange place, indeed, a place existing on the border between reality and fiction. A story that is both fun and thought-provoking.
The intriguing premise of this novel tackles some rather weighty existential questions. How much control do we have over our own fates? Would we, if we had some premonition of their significance, alter some of the seemingly inconsequential decisions and happenstances of our lives which later turn out to have tremendous impact on the courses our lives take? How much would it matter in the end even if we were able to make such alterations?
These questions are explored through the many lifetimes of the protagonist, Ursula Todd, each lifetime beginning anew on the same snowy day in February 1910. In succeeding lifetimes, Ursula retains some shadowy sense of major traumas from previous lifetimes and is able to take some steps to avert future tragedy, although she can hardly explain her own motives in so acting. All too often, these actions have little or no impact on the ultimate course of her history--and even when they do, it's hard to keep from wondering after a while if it really matters one way or the other.
The book starts out well enough and held my interest for some time but would have far better at about 1/2 the length. I had no trouble following the storyline (just remember that everything starts all over with each February 1910 "birth" although some events might repeat themselves), but the novel's conceit grows tedious in the extreme after about a dozen lifetimes (I didn't keep count, but my guess is that there were in excess of 20). Paradoxically, I grew to care less and less about Ursula's fate(s) and came to just wish for an end to the interminable cycle of rebirth long before the book itself ended. I'm not sure if it was the author's intention, but I have never before so much appreciated the Hindu desire for the end of samsara and the liberation of moksha.
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