20130419 ◊ I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that Kate Bornstein never made a ping on my radar before. I vaguely remember hearing about "Gender Outlaws" many years ago, but honestly -- most books on queer/feminist/gender theory make me want to claw my eyes out. So even if I'd had prior knowledge of her performance art and life story to motivate me, I'm not convinced that I'd have dug into her earlier written work.
No matter! Fortunately for me - and for everyone even slightly interested in her life story - Ms. Bornstein has written a charming, compelling, intelligent, heart-wrenching, brutally honest, and deeply moving memoir that I cannot recommend highly enough. Part transsexual bildungsroman, part Scientology tell-all, and part love-letter to her estranged daughter and grandchildren: this book manages to weave each of these elements into a cohesive, riveting story without deteriorating into car-crash pathos or saccharine sweetness. A few descriptions of tranny/queer sex and bdsm might be shocking to some, but Bornstein presents these topics with such lusty good-will and compassion for her less kinky readers (at one point even directing them to the first sentence of the next section past a particularly intense sadomasochistic scene) that you can't help grinning at her delightful, consensual depravity. Or at least, I couldn't. :)
Bornstein's journey towards acceptance, integration, and self-fulfillment is both fascinating and inspiring. I can only hope that others wring as much enjoyment out of this book as I've been able to! It's been quite a while since I've felt actively grateful that a book was written, simply for my own greedy joy in the reading of it.
Alice Rosengard's sweetly arch tone throughout the audiobook is spot-on. Brava!
20141105 ◊ As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride is a fun, ebullient, sometimes surprising, and entirely heartwarming memoir by Cary Elwes. Simply wonderful! Having listened to the audiobook, I can think of NO good reason for anyone to read this book in paper form as compared to listening to the flawless narration by Cary Elwes. Not only is his rendition of the text smooth and expressive, but Elwes treats the listener to a wide variety of delightful impersonations. For example, when he is recounting his many interactions with director Rob Reiner, he reads Rob's part of the conversation with a deep, booming, gravely, and musical voice. Since Reiner himself narrates parts of the text where he was interviewed for the book, the listener is able to hear just how spot-on Elwes' impersonation of him is. Also wonderful are his renditions of André the Giant, members of the Cockney film crew, and even President Clinton.
As mentioned above, many of the interviews by cast and crew members are read by the individuals themselves. We are treated to the voices of Carol Kane, Billy Crystal, Robin Wright, Chris Sarandon, Wally Shawn, Christopher Guest, Mandy Patinkin and more. I cannot stress enthusiastically enough just how wonderful this is! You can hear in their voices how much the making of this movie meant to all these actors, what a singular experience it was for them, and how honored they are to have been a part of it. The first time I heard Carol Kane chime in I started laughing so hard from the head-explody joy of it that I had to keep rewinding the file to hear what she was actually saying! Billy Crystal phoned it in -- literally; you can hear the familiar distortion of a telephone call -- but that just added to the sonic depth of the production. Chris Sarandon was wonderfully sincere, and Wally Shawn surprised me to no end with his revelations about his performance as Vizzini. There are also many poignant recollections of the late André Roussimoff by many of the cast members; you can tell how much they admired and still feel the loss of that great, humble giant of a man.
Are you a fan of "The Princess Bride?" If so, you will love all of the delicious details in this book. You will laugh out loud. You will be sad when it's over. I was beyond excited to listen to it right when it first came out, and it exceeded all of my expectations. Highly recommended!
20140513 ◊ As an avid backpacker, I read this book with keen interest in the story of a woman completing a solo hike of the PCT. As a meticulous trip planner and methodical researcher, I cringed through the author's descriptions of her own lack of preparation and systemic dingbattedness. The best thing I can say about this book is that Cheryl Strayed is a decent writer. The only thing I can admire about her story is the sheer tenacity she displayed by staying on the trail, even though she skipped huge chunks of the actual PCT. Narration of the audiobook by Bernadette Peters completely missed the mark; her raspy voice didn't match the story's perky protagonist.
This book left a bad taste in my mouth. The author's story is not inspirational in the slightest; I don't understand why it's getting so much attention. A shallow, spoiled brat of a woman, Strayed was only able to complete as much of the PCT as she did by relying upon the kindness of others. I was so tired of reading about how everyone fawned over her that by the time she got kicked out of the RV park for not being able to pay the camping fee, I cheered out loud. This is not the story of a strong, capable woman; it's the story of a hapless nincompoop whose only redeeming quality was a desperation-tinged determination to "complete" the PCT. Best as a cautionary tale on how not to plan a long backpacking trip, solo or otherwise.
201400320 ◊ This book was simply lovely. The story features two impossible creatures, who live and meet in New York City circa 1899. The worlds they inhabit - both past and present - are lovingly and skillfully described by first-time author Helene Wecker. The plot follows the personal stories of many fascinating characters; the way their lives unfold and intertwine is well-paced, sometimes surprising, and always satisfying. I was looking for a solid, enjoyable, one-off story to read after having finished making my way through a long-slog seven-book series; The Golem and the Jinni fit the bill perfectly. I can't think of anyone to whom I wouldn't recommend this book! Skillful narration of the audiobook by George Guidall made this an easy and enjoyable listen.
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