Glade, BC | Member Since 2006
I read this book after a day of thwarted effort, and it was a perfect escape, a pleasurable dive into David Sedaris's quirky, sharply observed, and often hilarious world.
Audiobooks offer a more intimate, warmer reading experience than the printed page, and Mr. Sedaris's work is a perfect fit for Audible. He performs well, and possesses the gift of mimicry, and hearing him read his own writing heightens the reading experience for the listener, makes it more immediate and alive.
I also like the musical stings that set up each essay reading in the audiobook, but the sound capture on some of the live performance segments wasn't very good. Not a show-stopper but I don't need to hear a audience clapping or laughing to find a given segment funny.
The audio may enhance the work, but the content is what really draws you in and holds you. Mr. Sedaris takes the humdrum and turns it into an opportunity to learn, to observe an unfolding cultural narrative. The simple act of standing in line to board a plane becomes a broad comedy of social manners; his interaction with a telemarketer from a far-away place launches him into an unexpected and poignant story about white privilege in the American south.
Mr. Sedaris writes about personal stuff, but never self-indulgently. Coming of age, his troubles with addiction, his personal obsessions, all are inputs into his essays. But his writing makes them so much more than personal family anecdotes: they have the ring of familiarity, of a universal cultural experience, especially for baby boomers.
Many of us recognize The Father who can only criticize and challenge and sometimes beat the son, and, more broadly, the struggle to communicate that exists in families. He also explores the enormous power that families have to define us, to give meaning to our lives.
Mr. Sedaris comments about his lifelong daily diarizing habit as recording life rather than living it. But his voice is that of someone watching in puzzlement and appreciation, not judgment or a sense of aggrievement.
My favourite essays in the book involve his everyday experience as an American abroad, where ordinary errands become adventures in cultural and social exploration.
At times, the humour is laced with empathy. At other times, the author employs more edgy satire. This is especially apparent in the essays at the end, where he skewers the politics of hatred and bigotry, taking the idea to absurd extremes. I found these stories less interesting because I think they are pure imagination, rather than grounded in observation and experience. Similarly, his dog poems, like the title itself, seemed contrived to me, and this is why I gave this wonderful book a rating of 4 instead of 5.
Since I buy David Sedaris's books not for their titles, but for his unique voice, his wonderful storytelling, comic timing, and brilliant turns of phrase--and I'm still laughing about his description of Australia as "Canada in a thong"--I'd highly recommend "Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls".
Many of us love our Apple products - Macs, iPhones, iPads -- with a passion reserved for no other appliance. But still, much as I am curious about the mind behind this extraordinary inventiveness, I avoided reading this bio when it first came out because I was sick of the lionizing press when Mr. Jobs died, and I feared this book would pander to the myth.
I was wrong. This book reveals the man, in all his brilliance and humanity.
Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs helps us really understand why we love these products as much as we do.
Moreover, with Jobs-like fanatical attention to detail, Mr. Isaacson has spoken to everyone. Everyone. From Mr. Jobs himself to the counter wait staff at the restaurant where Mr. Jobs' would stop to buy his vegan takeout. Unbelievable reporting depth and breadth.
The result is a compelling picture of a complex, deeply troubled, yet brilliant man, written in spare, accessible prose, even for non-techies and those not familiar with business. He situates the young Steve Jobs in a richly textured familial, social and geographical environment that serves to incubate his talents and passions.
I got the sense that regardless of where or when Steve Jobs emerged, he would have "put a dent in the universe". He was that special and that rare.
Mr. Isaacson wrings the humanity of the man out of the myth. For all his brilliance and societal impact, Mr. Jobs, in this book, seems as flawed as anyone else. He experienced his own life as we all experience our own lives. The reader comes to understand that, in a day-to-day sense, Steve Jobs's life was really all about the same things we all care so deeply about: work, family, love, loss, health... The difference lies in degree. He was just that much more driven, gifted, and lucky than the rest of us.
Much is made of The Great Man theory of leadership, and it may be true that Steve Jobs was the essence of Apple. But I came to appreciate that Steve Jobs could not have achieved such outstanding impact without other talents, like Steve Wozniak and Jonathan Ive.
Dylan Baker gives a good, strong, clear reading of the book, and I highly recommend this biography for anyone who is interested in leadership, technology, business, and Apple.
Spoiler Alert. In this third book of the Series, Jane Whitefield, super-woman, survivalist, deferential trophy wife, and (mostly) humourless private investigator, comes off with all the excitement of an insurance actuary, and my apologies to all the charismatic actuaries out there (grin).
This Perry protagonist never seems fully fleshed out to me - that saintly, convent girl morality is too evident, whether she's explaining how she's going to fulfill her wifely obligation or why she would vote "no" to a casino on the Reservation or how to avoid getting killed when you are fleeing for your life. Shadow Woman, indeed.
The ricocheting narrative seems to bounce off her, rather than move through her.
I should note that the Whitefield books are not bad; they are just not as good as Perry can be. I think his research is deep, particularly when he's covering geography or explaining how things (eg., firearms) work. So I gave the story a 2 rating.
But Perry can create much better stories, as in The Butcher's Boy series and Metzger's Dog.
These thrillers are leavened by wonderful--and sometimes outrageous--comedy. The author can make bad boys (and, to a lesser degree, bad girls) delightful.
For a suave womanizer, Jane's husband, the doctor, is naive to the point of stupidity, making a fetish of politeness and hospitality while the Evil Psycho-Woman uses seductiveness and manipulation to invade his personal space. Within hours, he gives her the key to his house! Really! Did he never see "Fatal Attraction"?
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Jane is ruminating about her marriage (skip this part, it's a narrative dead zone). When she starts to help her sexy client run for his life through northern Montana and eventually, Glacier National Park, the plot gains much-needed momentum, with interesting adventures (such as using dog tracking to find humans in the bush and surviving a bear encounter).
Perry likes to write parallel plots where one character is leading one narrative strand and his or her foil is driving a parallel narrative strand. Action and counter-action are interwoven build suspense effectively. Eventually, the strands intersect, and this can be explosive, as in "The Informant" when Elizabeth Waring and The Killer connect in an unanticipated, fantastic, fun way. A similarly exciting parallel narrative played out with Chinese Gordon and the Porterfield in "Metzger's Dog".
In this book, Jane and her husband, each in opposite parts of the country, are separately pursued by one half of the Evil Couple, and both wrestle with brief sexual temptation and resist. But these respective parallel narratives seem overwrought and stretched thin.
Travel, by car, air, and on foot, is a recurring part of Perry's books, and this can be quite entertaining. But in the Whitefield series, it feels as if there is too much time spent en route and not enough time (and character) invested in the arrival. The action feels as if it is happening at arm's length, while we segue into irrelevant sub-plots featuring easy women and a Mafia security chief chasing Jane and her client. And there is one coincidence that beggars belief where the professional killer gives himself away by shooting the wrong guy by mistake, which blows his cover long enough for Jane to escape the scene with her client.
The Evil Ones are shallow, instinctive beings, lacking self-awareness and insight. You want Jane to have more worthy opponents. The Butcher's Boy was a killer you could respect and even like, but when these two are finally stopped, it has the feeling of stopping a robot or runaway train, a resolution which feels flat and anti-climactic.
A final word about the narration. I would have given up on these books had I read them in print, but Joyce Bean lends a strong clear voice to the narrative, making unbelievable situations and characters more tenable. And that's a good thing.
I have now read the first three Jane Whitefield novels, which were gifts to me. I really wanted to give the Series a chance, because I was so impressed with "The Butcher Boy" Series and my favourite Perry, "Metzger's Dog".
I think Ms Bean delivers a compelling narration, and her character voices fit the people to whom they've been assigned. Her story telling doesn't get in the way, a pet peeve I have, where a narrator's overly dramatic take on a book overpowers the story, like a pianist playing so loudly you can't hear the singer.
I found it hard to suspend my disbelief when it came to Jane Whitefield herself, as a construct. Cool, aloof, detached, this Native American detective then accepts traditional marriage to a (get this!) doctor in upstate New York. She surrenders her life, her passion, and it strikes me that for Mr. Perry, there is no other course of action for her. Makes me wonder if he gets a charge out of creating this incredible super-woman and then having her willingly subvert and subordinate herself to her Man.
It wouldn't be the first time. Elizabeth Waring in the otherwise wonderful "Butcher's Boy" series is borderline incompetent at times, and unlucky and ineffective. But as she is really a foil for the infinitely smarter and luckier sociopathic killer, the real star of the show, the stories in the Butcher's Boy Series are great fun to read.
But with Jane Whitefield, the author has created a female protagonist we can't accept or believe or even like that much. It's a risky move that doesn't quite come off.
The other issue I have with these books is the author's love of detailed geography lessons and endless hippity-hoppity criss-crossing the country. The novels get mired in airports and on highways, and sometimes in national parks. For me, he is a strong enough writer that I put up with these forays into narrative nowhere, but I was tempted to fast-forward a few times.
I would consider listening to more Jane Whitefield if I thought the author would replace the didactic travelogue or exposition about, say, guns, with more compelling and believable narrative line that includes characters like those he brilliantly created in Metzger's Dog, a wonderful, sly, witty, laugh-out-loud book where even the cat has personality and attitude you can appreciate.
We want to inhabit the world of these books, not watch from the sidelines, as we shake our heads in disbelief. .
I audio-read Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs before I read "Inside Apple". Taken together, both books create a fuller understanding of Apple than each on its own.
I like narration in most non-fiction books to be clean and level, well inflected, yet without overly dramatic flourishes that get in the way. Todd Mundt, who is one of the narrators of The New Yorker, is the very best at this, in my opinion.
I'm usually hesitant to purchase audiobooks that are narrated by the author, but I took a chance this time, and Mr. Lashinsky delivered a solid performance, so no regrets there.
From this book, I learned a lot more about Apple as a business, and the focus is much less on Steve Jobs than on the company, and that is a strength of this book.
No Apple senior manager (and probably no current employee) would agree to an interview for the book, and Adam Lashinsky has drawn extensively from a wide variety of credible sources to overcome that. Nevertheless, this is a weakness, as the book remains incomplete without a current manager's insights. I think it would have been a more comprehensive and engaging book if such access had been granted.
Since this behaviour is entirely consistent with the portrait painted of this most secretive of companies, it is understandable, and I still found the book informative.
Most surprising, for me, was discovering that this company that places so much emphasis on product quality and customer experience is not a great place to work. I am not sure why I expected it to be...well...more fun, in the sense of all these brilliant, passionate people creating marketplace magic together.
Instead, the Apple that emerges in Lashinsky's book is a high-stress nose-to-the-grindstone, need-to-know culture where the focus is exclusively on a narrow range of activities associated with one's current work assignment. Talk about Apple, to anyone, even other employees, and you're done. Scary.
I appreciated the effort the author took to discuss Apple's future without its powerful founder. Already, some of what he predicted - turnover in the Executive ranks - has come to pass with the departure of two top Executives within the year immediately following his death. It will be very interesting to see if Apple's approach to business can endure without its brilliant founder.
I recommend this book for any student of business, especially those interested in employee culture and branding.
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