Willa Cather's My Antonia is clearly an American classic, and I can recommend it on that basis alone, but beyond that story she tells, through the voice of Jim Burden, the narrator, is just riveting. Many of us have been to early American homes that are maintained by state governments or the National Park Service, and they're fine; but here is a story that tells us what days in the life of a real pioneering family was like. What was it really like to travel for more than a month (overland from Bohemia to some European port, sail across the Atlantic, take train after train to some rail head beyond Kansas City, and then by horse) to a wind blown prairie that you now had to live on, and if you didn't make up your mind to live on it you would most certainly die on it. What was it like to live in a hole in the ground during an entire Nebraska winter? Would you really like to be the very first human being to bust Nebraska sod with a plow so that you convert it into crop land? If you thought life was hard for those people, think again. It was really, really hard. But despite the harshness and the frequent tragedies in their lives, this is a story about the triumph of the human spirit.
I've been an Audible listener for several years, and this is definitely one of the worst books I've heard.
The author has not a clue regarding the importance of point of view for a reader. The story begins in the first person POV of the artist-protagonist (or apparent protagonist). Then, without warning, the author shifts gears into the first person POV of the protagonist's disabled brother. Then we're taken back to the artist's POV (also without notice). Whose story is this, Mr. Carey? Adding insult to injury, the narrator gives the two characters exactly the same Australian accent and tone of voice. It's impossible to keep track of who's speaking at any point. I couldn't take it any more and stopped listening.
Definitely NOT recommended.
Here's a work that shows how naive Americans are about the intentions of the Russian state, especially under Vladimir Putin. After Gorbachev and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Russians were suddenly our friends. Think again. There's a reason why Putin, a former high-ranking KGB officer, still runs the show. This is an excellent story, well told and well-narrated. Strongly recommended for anyone with an interest in current affairs.
Hamill definitely writes well, and the story of a doctor in a downtrodden section of Manhattan during the Depression years has a few heartwarming moments, as well some interesting tidbits of old New York City history. But there is no great suspense here, no feeling that the protagonist is ever in real danger or real trouble. That's why I'd call this "low stakes" as far as suspense is concerned. I finished this one because the characters, even some of the secondary ones, are very well developed, but nothing much happens to them. I could have stopped anywhere along the way and not lost anything.
One of the characters is toddler boy, and I found the baby voice characterization very annoying. However, that's not the narrator's fault; he's doing the best he can with the material.
Or William Trevor, for that matter. I struggled to get through these stories because they were devoid of action. Even in a short story, something - anything - has to happen to somebody. I was expecting a lot more. The narrator is good, but I tired of her voice because I tired of the story, and not the other way 'round.
We can complain a lot about present day government corruption, but until you read this book you have no idea how bad it can get. The story almost sounds like a novel - except it's true. And if you thought OJ's trial had a strange result (not guilty in the criminal trial, liable in the civil), Teapot Dome easily tops that. The Interior Secretary, Albert Fall, was convicted of taking a bribe from an oil man who, in a separate trial, was acquitted of bribing Fall. Fall really was a fall guy. (I'm not giving anything away here -- the characters make the story here, not the legal verdicts).
The narration is very good. The only quibble I have is that the narrator sometimes sounded as if he were going a bit too fast. A great listen.
Although most of the stock manipulations described in Reminiscences are now illegal, the stories in this book are really fascinating. The author was a trader in the days when the Big Board was just that: a big chalk board with clerks running around writing in share prices. Still, this is a fascinating read, and you don't have to be a subscriber to Investors Business Daily to enjoy this. He begins in bucket shops before the turn of the last century, takes you through the Panic of 1907 and goes up to the 1929 crash. The observations of the author, who made and lost fortunes, are relevant to anybody who confronts risk on a daily basis. The narration is very clear, very well done.
Highly recommended for people who want to write, but who are suffering from crises of self-confidence. The author's approach is practical and inspiring, esp. if you feel like you've got a bad case of writer's block. Very down to earth narration.
The author appears to follow a venerable tradition of people stuck somewhere (Boccacio's Decameron) or traveling (Chaucer's Canterbury Tales) having to amuse themselves by telling short stories to each other. Here, though, there's a much higher gross-out factor, so if you're squeamish about horror story details, this one's not for you. I really enjoyed the stories, which are more horror than suspense, IMHO. Note that each of the characters/narrators has a nickname, rather than a real name, which makes following the narration a bit tough for the first hour, but you get used to it.
I'd never heard of Flying Enterprise before seeing this book on Audible, but it was one of the biggest stories of the early 1950s, and one of the biggest sea stories ever. The courage and endurance of one man come across really clearly, and the author/narrator has a personal connection to the events and some of the people who were involved. Be sure to listen to the epilogue as well, because even after the man was long gone, his wife helped the family to whom she sold her house.
This recording must have been made on one of the original etching tins used by Thomas Edison in 1877, when sound was first recorded. Then, it was fed into the Audible files by a wire buried in 10 tons of wool. The audio is the worst I have ever listened to since I've been an Audible customer.
Solution: This one either needs to be re-recorded or digitally remastered, or something else to bring it up to snuff. I had to constantly back up to catch what was said. It's an insult to have to listen to a writer of Theroux's caliber through a medium like this. The narrator is not at fault here, he does a great job and brings some of the crazier characters to life. And this is a really entertaining series of vignettes and stories about Theroux's coming of age as a writer. As he himself says in this one, there is no English word for bildungsroman, but this may be as close as we get.
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