This is a wonderful and compelling reading of a very good book: one that would be very easy to ruin with an unintelligent interpretation.
No, there is not a lot of "plot" per se and it is highly discursive: welcome to Bellow's world! There's a passage of several pages where Charlie considers the subject of productive inactivity from every possible angle, which struck me as almost a manifesto for the technique of the novel itself. Events in the outside world mainly serve to prompt ruminating, reflecting, and reminiscing.
But make no mistake: there is in fact a story, it features great, colorful characters, it's told in beautiful language, and it's very entertaining all the way through. It made me laugh out loud all the time. And finally, countless little plot threads that have meandered through the text for hours all get neatly tied up into a satisfying screwball ending.
But the book is not really about the destination. It's about the journey. The book is drenched with warm-hearted nostalgia, and a comprehensive generosity of spirit that is hard to find anywhere in the world, at any time. Charlie Citrine makes the world a bigger and friendlier place to be.
And again, this reader is probably the best possible reader they could have chosen for the part. I plan to give this book a second and third listen in the future. This definitely ranks up there with Ron Silver's reading of American Pastoral, George Guidall's reading of Zorba the Greek, and Donal Donelly's reading of Dubliners as one of the best audiobook performances I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing.
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