Los Angeles, CA, United States | Member Since 2006
Johnson has a great sense of narrative and real moral outrage about the evils of communist and fascist totalitarianism. For this liberal it was a stunning and provocative view of history from the conservative angle.
That said, he refuses to criticize dictators who were on the US side and even excuses their crimes in a way he never excuses communists. The chapter on the Spanish Civil War is absurd, and his critiques of intellectuals and "east coast elites" are simplistic and Nixonian in their transparent resentment.
For the first 100 pp. I was enraptured. Richard Price is a master who paints a vivid picture of a New York neighborhood and its characters. Aided by a great performance by Bobby Cannavale, whose NYC stuffy-nosed accent is just right, you can really see and hear the scenes and conversations he creates.
For all that I felt my interest flagging a bit by p. 300 or so. The story is very episodic, so after a while you're just ready for it to wrap up.
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.
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