Singapore, Singapore | Member Since 2013
As a general rule, I avoid anything that implies “dark” or “sinister” in the synopsis – it’s just not my preferred style. I only purchased this novel to see what all the fuss was about.
19h and 17min later – I understand the fuss – this is the best book I have ever read. I literally had to drag myself away from the headphones each afternoon.
To ensure I reveal not even a clue of the clever and flawless narrative, I’m going to avoid any discussion of plot.
The pacing and quality of the writing is spot-on. The performances of the two narrators are excellent, and brought the perfectly formed characters to life – I really feel like I know Nick and Amy, which is simultaneously thrilling and distributing.
Enough said. Read this book before the David Fincher film adaptation is released in 2015, and it becomes an even bigger deal than it already is.
Disclaimer: I am not the target demographic for this book. Before reading Chronicles, I had what can only be described as a passing acquaintance with Dylan's life, music and influence.
Dylan definitely assumes the reader will already know his "story", so offers instead a series of rambling, non-linear reminiscences. From my perspective, this was not an autobiography, but more like watching a shadow puppet version of a life story. I guess I can see how Dylan fans would find the timeline-free account and endless name-dropping appetizing, but I could only detect subtle wafts of interest. I’ve never read the unabridged text, but I fear this abridged version could be partially (or even totally) to blame for the confusing narrative.
About halfway through the book I decided to read the Wikipedia entry on Bob Dylan to get some context and grounding. Honestly, I found the Wikipedia entry more compelling than Chronicles.
Sure, it's poetic — some of the most lyrical lines I've read in a book. But that brings me to the plagiarism controversy. It's obvious Dylan pulled some of the books best phrases and ideas from other writers. But I don't have an inherent problem with that — Dylan even references the imitative and “borrowed” nature of his music in Chronicles. However, knowing this is a manuscript stitched together from found spare-parts, only confirmed my feeling that Chronicles really has much less to say than I was expecting. It does prove that Dylan is a talented bower bird.
Sean Penn gives a gruff and low performance, his voice dripping with burly apathy. I have to admit, Penn's celebrity does lend this recording an air of borrowed prestige. But if were judging the narration on quality alone, Penn’s performance is average at best. I’m afraid Sean’s indifferent style may have influenced my indifferent response to this reading.
On a positive note, the book did pique my interest in 1960's counterculture, and inspired me to learn more about the music, the politics and the issues of that time — three stars for whetting my appetite.
This was the worst audiobook narration I’ve ever heard. I can only guess Sutherland was attempting to embody the exhaustion of the beaten-down, resilient old fisherman. But honestly, he sounded as bored and tired as I felt. There were entire passages I could barely understand because of the mumbly, comatose, fatigued delivery. It was so bad it was borderline comical.
The saving grace is that the story is mercifully short – knowing it was going to end quickly was the only thing that kept me listening.
As for the narrative itself, this was my first encounter with “The Old Man…”, and I’m so disappointed it was under these circumstances.
During the reading I couldn’t find anything in the story that captured me. It was sparse and repetitive and – I hate to say it – boring. The emotional punch doesn’t come until the very, very end. And at that moment I could barely muster any response other than relief (that it was over) and bafflement (that this is considered a classic).
But I like to allow a few days or a week before reviewing… to allow the text space to have its impact. I’ve found myself lingering on the mundane tragedy of the old man and the gentle broken heartedness of the young boy. And I’m ruminating on the old man’s tender acceptance of life’s harsh realities.
These post-reading thoughts are making this a terribly difficult book to review. How can I want to re-experience something I didn’t enjoy at all? So maybe that’s why this qualifies as a classic?!
I will most likely reread the book (as text not audio), and may possibly have a different opinion after Round 2. But in the meantime, I’m giving my honest response to a first-time exposure. My three-star review is intended to represent the awful experience during, and the delayed emotional punch that came after.
I think most reviewers agree; Groff is an indisputably capable writer. The prose in this book is effortless and quite beautiful. I was even fond of the protagonist, Willie, who seems to be the primary source of scorn for other low-star reviewers. And I was intrigued by the mystical undercurrents of ghosts, monsters and other mysteries that Groff has woven into this narrative.
But, for a whole variety of reasons, Monsters of Templeton just didn’t work for me. After completing only one-third (I’ve listened to 4h out of 12h total), I’m afraid I just can’t bear the thought of another 8h so I’m reluctantly putting this book aside and moving on.
Too much time was spent framing the genealogical search through past generations – yawn. No amount of remarkable closet-skeletons can entice me to keep track of six(?) generations of characters and innumerable illegitimate (i.e. confusing) pregnancies.
This brings me to a specific criticism of this audio version. Liza Ross does a fine job with the narration, but she is expected to portray many first-person narrators. Including an Irish immigrant from the 1800’s and a Jamaican slave from the 1700’s. Those chapters were terrible and cringey. But I don’t blame Ross – this was too much to ask for any voice actor.
I’ve read other critiques of Monsters, that claim Groff struggled to give her numerous characters unique "voices". Imagine how extra difficult this is with an audio version where – literally – the same voice is used for every character. Using just one reader was, in my opinion, a wasted opportunity to really bring this story to life.
I don’t feel good writing this review – I can tell Groff is a supremely talented story-teller. I just felt this particular story wasn’t right for me.
I gave up on this version half-way through Chapter 4. The narration by Victoria McGee was horrendous. Like other reviewers, I was instantly reminded of Apple’s automaton Siri. Despite this reaction, I decided to persist. But when the character of Martha Sowerby was introduced in Chapter 4, McGee launches the most ludicrous, inauthentic Yorkshire accent I’ve ever heard. It was comedic in its dreadfulness.
It was so bad; I instantly switched it off and succumbed to my curiosity – I Googled the narrator. Everything else I heard from McGee was so different (i.e. fantastic) I can only assume this is a terrible and unfortunate anomaly from an otherwise talented voice-artist.
I’ve just purchased another version, with a different narrator.
What a surprise. I grew up with the 1939 film adaption and therefore can’t remember a moment in my life when I didn’t “know” the Oz narrative. But this was my first encounter with the original text and I was charmed from the first sentence.
I guess the film doesn’t stray too far from the original. But I had a great time spotting the differences when they did appear (and then trying to guess the motivation for MGM introducing those changes into the film). Overall, I think the book is considerably more charismatic than the film – and that is intended as seriously high praise.
Reading other reviewers, it seems the most divisive element of this particular reading is Anne Hathaway’s voice characterizations. I listened to this recording with my three primary-school-aged boys, and I believe it was the voice-acting that kept them glued to the speakers. So for my money, Hathaway did a fantastic job and definitely deserves a five-star rating. But I can also understand how it grated on some people (I’m guessing adults who were listening without kids?).
This engaging story has truly stood the test of time, and really does deserve its reputation as a classic.
I was totally unfamiliar with Sedaris’ back catalogue when I started this audiobook. From my subsequent research, it seems the author has a distinctive and predictable style; essentially a series of semi-related, extremely personal, based-on-a-true-story essays strung together like mismatching baubles on an eclectic necklace. And what a bizarre and conflicting little necklace this book turns out to be.
Some of the chapters are true jewels --- preciously hilarious, wonderfully observed and dryly told pieces of satire. This is especially true of the chapters recorded at live book-readings with an audience. But the worst chapters are rotten --- like sodden, red Froot Loops masquerading as rubies.
After the first chapter, I was a “David Sedaris Convert”. I was ready to purchase every book he’d ever written, and I’d already decided Diabetes was clearly going to be a five-star listen. Although he peaked way too early, there were some genuinely funny moments speckled throughout. But there was just too much self-involved, self-righteous, self-pity to keep me interested.
There are definite shades of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” here (a series I adore by the way). While Larry David knows how to flirt perfectly with controversy, I’m afraid I can’t say the same for David Sedaris. Maybe he’s the kind of “character” who grows on you --- in which case I humbly suggest first-timers like me start with some of his earlier works and progress to Diabetes.
Oh, and by the way. I’m Australian and “kookaburra” is pronounced with a “cook” (like the chef), not a “kook” (like the eccentric neighbor). A small thing, but…
I’ll end on one positive note. The narration by the author is fantastic. More than a few times, some very average jokes were elevated beyond their station by Sedaris’ dry and knowing delivery. For fans of the hardcopy version (yes, I do realize many people love this book), the audio version would be a sound investment.
As much I appreciated this piece of fiction, I have to confess that I’m thankful it was only a short time spent in the heartrending world of George and Lennie.
In some ways this is an easy listen --- the pacing is brisk, the characters are well-defined, the narrative is engaging and the performance from Clarke Peters is a delight.
But in some other very important ways, “Of Mice and Men” is a real challenge. The characters attitudes toward race and gender may be historically accurate but are – nonetheless – pretty hard to take. And the sense of impending calamity imbued in the writing may be masterful, but left me spent. By the time we reached the final scenes, my heart was truly broken.
I really did respect this novella and thoroughly recommend it, but can’t say I “enjoyed” it.
I have had prior exposure to CBT concepts, so this book really didn’t teach me anything new. But it did provide some nice reinforcement, and the principles described appeared sound.
This was one of my first Audible downloads, and I didn’t notice the “Abridged” status. Although I’m not familiar with the unabridged work, at just over 2h, this version seems *heavily* abridged! If it wasn’t for this, I would probably have assigned four stars.
Everyone should buy this audiobook, whether you’ve read Animal Farm previously, or not.
For those familiar with the story, there is so much joy to be had from Simon Callow’s fantastic and fantastical reading. From the first sentence, I was mesmerized. His interpretation of Stalin… sorry… I mean Napoleon… is a delight. And at just over 3h, why not revisit the material?
For those who haven’t read the book before, what a great introduction. I’m not an expert on the Soviet revolution and the subsequent Stalin cult of personality, so Animal Farm – for me – remains the best and simplest allegory of this strange period of human history. Because the symbols have been boiled down to their most basic elements, I wouldn’t describe anything here as “dazzling”. But it’s this very simplicity that will keep you engaged. Strip away all the metaphor and dystopia, and you’ll see that Animal Farm is also a touching and charming story.
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