Los Angeles, CA, United States | Member Since 2006
Thirty-five years ago when it was written Theroux's Asian journey must have seemed particularly exotic. It's much less so now--Indians are no longer just dirty and corrupt, the Japanese are no longer so inscrutable. Theroux is refreshingly open about some of his cranky reactions to what he encounters, and no characters come in for harsher treatment than the boorish Americans he finds. With a little break I'll crack the followup book in which he retraces his steps.
Special kudos to the narrator Frank Muller: great accents, great timing!
I loved, loved, loved Rabbit Run but I have to disagree with the other reviewers about Redux--this book is mostly interesting as an historical artifact, as Updike goes for a working-class take on the late 60's. I imagine Updike in 1970 trying to recreate how the Vietnam war, black power, hippies and the sexual revolution would look to him if he'd never gotten out of his small Pennsylvania town, and this is the result. The events of the book just seem random; the black character actually has some nuance, but when he forces Rabbit to take lessons in black history it just seems like a white liberal's paranoid fantasy.
I've been told that Rabbit is Rich is similarly a let-down, but the last of the bunch, Rabbit at Rest, is a masterpiece worthy of Rabbit Run. I'll have to see.
The reader does a very poor job, I must say. He may have been chosen for the weary working-class quality of his voice, but he doesn't seem to be listening to the story as he reads.
This is an entertaining story of a young detective trying to solve a murder in a time when no one cares because the world is about to end. It's well-written, but not very deep. It's a good read but more of a time-filler than an occasion for reflection.
The Luminaries is a great read for anyone who enjoys 19th-century British novels. Catton's prose is of a decidedly Victorian bent, beautiful descriptions spilling out as a Wilkie Collins-type plot unfolds. Now, I read the Woman in White recently and ended up angry at its cheap coincidences, but The Luminaries doesn't have any of those. For most of the book it's very funny and a real page turner, even with its formal prose style. There's also a fascinating portrayal of early New Zealand society, which indeed was the author's aim.
What it does have is a weird structure in which little pieces of the whole plot drip out for 800pp., followed by a rush to the finish that doesn't even answer all the reader's questions. Upon finishing I went online and was both relieved and annoyed to find that the unexplained pieces of the plot are just that. There's also an astrological theme throughout that I confess I couldn't follow (even looking at the charts at the head of each section in the print book, which the audiobook of course omits).
Mark Meadows may be the very best narrator I've ever listened to, as he switches effortlessly through a variety of British, Scottish and Irish accents.
Robert Sams reads this book sounding almost like a computer-generated voice--with little variation of tone and clearly NO idea what he's saying. Since I'm whispersyncing with a Kindle copy, I can tell you that this novel is filled with hilarious characters and biting social commentary, but he misses the point entirely! I had to stop sometimes and think through the words to get the joke or even just to get the meaning. Sams has no interest in this book and should really be replaced with a reader who will deign to make it comprehensible. BOO!
The characters are almost all British--why didn't they get an English actor to read it?
Cradled in a fine evocation of the world of the New York art scene circa 1976 and the tumult of labor protests in Italy are a torrent of shorter narratives, almost like a Thousand and One Nights. Most though not all of the stories she tells are enjoyable and contribute to the world she's portraying. I'm not certain it all hangs together, but I suspect I'll be chewing this one over for a while.
The narrator has a pleasant voice that is just right for the protagonist's unsure 23-year-old self. When she says "I" you really believe she's the one telling you this story. However, her intonation is sometimes way off, as if she's concentrating on keeping a smooth delivery at the expense of understanding what she's saying.
I picked this up because there's a reference to it in Ulysses, and Joyce owes a tiny debt to Wilkie Collins for developing the idea of a multi-narrator novel. With Collins' The Moonstone, it has a place in history as the original mystery novel.
That said, it's very hokey stuff, a bad gothic story that relies on a string of coincidences and a very Victorian concept of foreigners. Some of the descriptions of action are just hideously long and dull. I almost gave up halfway through.
The readers trade off, Prebble reading the male narrators and Bailey the female ones. Both are masters of the craft.
This is a superb series of lectures walking you through Joyce's very difficult novel. I read Ulysses in college and although I remembered a great deal about it, there were many aspects of it that passed me by at the time. Prof. Heffernan is skillful and entertaining as he takes you chapter-by-chapter through the thorny book. He's particularly good at explicating the Homeric parallel.
The Great Courses format is frankly absurd, with its 30-minute chunks, applause and the same damned bit of Brandenburg concerto at the head of every lecture.
The rendering of Pablo Neruda is by far the best part of the book. As Ampuero says in the postscript, he aimed to bring El Poeta down to earth, show him for the great but flawed person he was. By all means, go read some Neruda poems when you're done; they'll bring out the Great Man part.
The "mystery", such as it is, is disappointing, just this-happened-then-this-then-this, even as the story goes all over the world. As the Pinochet coup approaches, descriptions of Chile in turmoil are vivid and harrowing, but are over almost as soon as they begin.
I found the reading professional but perfunctory.
If you're looking this far into the gigantic Proust novel, I'll assume you need no recommendations regarding the "story", such as it is, but I will say that Guermantes Way is likely one of the most entertaining and funny of all the volumes. Proust's dead-on critique of high society is full of cynical humour as he comes to realize that the princes and duchesses he's worshipped from afar are either vain, stupid or badly wasting any wit or talent they possess.
Neville Jason has undertaken the huge task of rendering Remembrance of Things Past into audio-book form in English. He gives a fine read, giving characters equivalent British accents (the Duc de Guermantes is given a London aristocrats' accent, Fran??oise an Irish servant's tones, etc.) and pronounces all surviving French words correctly. The short pdf reader's guide that comes with the audiobook was actually written by Jason as well, and he does a good job of introducing the general reader to Proust.
I waited a long time to read Infinite Jest since I depend heavily on audiobooks to keep up on my reading???I have a long commute, a busy job, kids, etc.???so I was very glad to see IJ become available. Having spent a month making my way through it with the audiobook AND a kindle version, reading every footnote, using Internet wikis to keep track of the story, exceptional vocabulary and references, I declare that I loved the book. It's a Ulysses for the 90's, combining erudition and a pop culture sensibility.
The reader does OK. He puts on some good Boston accents, but he's clearly no French speaker. There are some annoying edits inserted around the first half or so, as some producer clearly freaked out and made him correct the pronunciation of several French phrases and DFW's patented weird vocabulary. Still, give the poor bastard some credit--this must have taken him a month to record.
I understand the decision to leave out the footnotes, but it does seem like corner-cutting. If DFW were still alive, I bet he would have called for some clever compromise, such as putting the footnotes on a separate audio file in a different voice, or writing some comments for the reader to add, such as "That's just an explanation of the drug he's taking," or "Seriously, don't skip this one." Audiobook makers seem to forget that their products are performances like any other, and need not be a literal recitation treating the text as a sacred object.
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