Having enjoyed listening to audiobooks of Jeffrey Eugenides’ first two novels, "The Virgin Suicide" and "Middlesex," I looked forward to this one.
What exactly is a “marriage plot”? We encounter it frequently in novels and films. Wikipedia defines it as follows: “Marriage plot is a term used, often in academic circles, to categorize a storyline that recurs in novels most prominently and in films most recently. Until the expansion of marriage rights to same-sex couples, this plot centered exclusively on the courtship rituals between a man and a woman and the obstacles that faced the potential couple on its way to the nuptial payoff. The marriage plot became a popular source of entertainment in the 18th and 19th centuries with the rise of the bourgeois novel. The foremost practitioners of the form include some of the more illustrious names in English letters, among them Samuel Richardson, Jane Austen, George Eliot and the Brontë sisters.”
As I listened to the travails of the young, Ivy League, literati in Eugenides version of a modern day marriage plot, I thought no so much of the novels of Jane Austen and Henry James, but of the many times Shakespeare used it in his plays: by my count 23. Eugenedes puts his own spin on the marriage plot and does so in fast paced, clearly written, and enjoyable fashion. If I had one criticism, it is that his third novel does not have the same subtle Kalfkaesque strangeness which the subject matter of his first two novels afforded (suicide in "The Virgin Suicides," and genetic variation in "Middlesex"). It seemed Eugenedes attempted to use the topics of religion (Mitchell ) and mental illness (Leonard) to achieve the same effect, but fell a little short. This might have been from Eugenides' pre-conceived plan to pay homage to earlier novelists rather than create something new and non-derivative. Still, I enjoyed this novel enough to give it the highest marks.
With regard to the narrator’s performance, I don’t think he could have done a better job. His casting was perfect, and you could always tell which character was speaking.
Listened to this one 3 times in a row because I liked it so much. The female reader is a perfect fit. Easily the best book I've listened to this year. Can't recommend it enough.
The translator and narrators did a fine job. However, the novel had zero humor and was very preachy. I listened to this book because Pasternak won the Nobel Prize and the David Lean movie is a classic. But don't expect Tolstoy or Dostoevsky.
This book was on my bucket list. I didn't think I'd like it because it is currently popular with conservative wingnuts who do not share my political views. To my suprise, it seems to be more about rugged individualism than politics. The protagonists have a Hemmingway flavor, i.e., marching to their own tune. The plot moves well. And, contrary to what some critics say, the prose style is succinct and colorful. I heartily recommend this novel whether you are a righty or lefty. The price is right, too.
With so much maudlin advance-hype of the printed novel, I looked for reasons to criticize this audiobook. Alas, it lived up to, and in my opinion, exceeded expectations.
David LeDoux does a masterful job in performing the many voices in Freedom. I’ve watched several YouTube interviews of Fanzen. LeDoux’s voice and presentation are similar. He captures Franzen’s manner of speaking which is consistent with the tone and themes of this book. Whether this was intended by the producers is an open question since the narrator of the audiobook The Corrections had a smoky, older voice (though he did a good job).
Fanzen has been criticized for his sarcastic and cynical interviews, but to me he is entertaining, sincere, and very, very smart. Many great authors such as Joyce, Hemmingway, and Fitzgerald had big egos. They took their writing seriously and expected the same from their readers. This is not a bad thing.
I have listened to a little over 300 unabridged audiobooks, many of them recordings of classics such as Shakespeare, Dickens, Tolstoy, Joyce, etc. I don’t give inflated reviews. Offhand, the only performance that meets or exceeds LeDoux’s performance is Jeremy Iron’s reading of Lolita. This audiobook is worth the time and money, and then some. It’s that good.
Some of the reviews criticize this production because the reader makes some mistakes, such as a few burps. The listener should take into consideration that the producer is the UK's RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People). The productions are rather old and were done on a limited budget. This is why the price is so low. However, this does not mean that the readings are poor. To the contrary, all of the RNIB audiobooks I've listened to were read by top notch British actors who, in my opinion, do a far better job than most professional readers. The reader of this audiobook, Gabriel Wolff, gives a stellar performance. I recognize him from other audiobooks. He is superb. I'll gladly tolerate his occasional snafu which would have been cleaned up by a more expensive production, in exchange for his protean character adaptations. The aristocrats sound like aristocrats and the commoners sound like commoners. Though I guess I could have rated this 4 stars because of the uneven production, when one takes into consideration the extremely low price, this audiobook clearly deserves 5 stars.
If you enjoyed Gunter Grass's "The Tin Drum" and Salman Rushdie's "Midnight Children," you'll like this novel.
The NY Times review too harshly criticizes the translators' inability to capture the nuances of the many Chinese aphorisms. The same criticism could be made of every translation. But this defect doesn't diminish the overall tone and power of the book. If anything, it reminds the reader he is dealing with a different culture.
The story sketches a post-modern/magical realism bildungsroman of two Chinese half-brothers from the crushing poverty of The Cultural Revolution to the hyper-materialism of present China.
For me, the most compelling part of the book was the cruelty visited on the brothers' father by the Red Guard.
There is also a love story involving a beautiful village girl for whom the brothers competed. But I won't spoil; you'll have to listen yourself.
The narrator was excellent. This novel gives the emotional side of the ramp up to the Civil War, the war itself, and subsequent reconstruction. Highly recommended.
Rabbit Redux is compared unfavorably by the critics to the other Rabbit books. In my opinion, this is unfair. Updike's prose is uniformly smooth and rich. So apparently the critics don't like the content.
The book caputures the ethos of 1969--the peak and end of the Hippie Sixties. I was there. I was 12--the same age as Rabbit's son, Nelson. To me, that period was not the groovie barrel of fun Gen-X's think, rather it was often chaotic and terrifying. The world felt like it was going to heck in a handbag.
Updike caputures the zeitgeist. 18 year old rich girl Jill is the perfect rich hippie chick strung out on drugs. Nam vet Skeeter is a mix between a chicken hearted Black Panther and Charlie Manson, complete with pseudo-intellectual rants about how the Man is keeping the brothers down and needs to be shot.
Rabbit himself is a lazy whimp. He sees his world falling apart but would rather get stoned on Skeeter's pot. He could care less about his adulterous wife, and though he loves his son, he's hardly the model father in that he lets a strung out hippie chick and a sociopathic black guy take over his house.
Like most modernistic authors, there are no pure good guys or bad guys in this novel. Everyone is a dingy gray. And such is life.
I enjoyed Updike's lapidary prose and his faithful characterization of how the late 60s was the springboard for the ensuing decades's sins--sex, drugs, and money.
I would have given this novel 5 stars, but on several CD's the narrator makes mistakes and then say's "go back," which is apparently a signal to the producer to rewind the CD. The narrator can hardly be at fault for this, rather the producer needs a slap on the cheek for abandoning the helm.
Arthur Morey does a first rate job. The producer should get much of the credit since Morey has the perfect voice for the Rabbit novels. I listened to this 3 times and it got better each time. Well worth your money.
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