The Collection was a major disappointment. The low quality recordings defeated every audio system I attempted, I was disappointed that I couldn't hear the recordings without great effort (at best); and disappointed that Audible made the recordings available without a disclaimer.
Clearly, the performances were recorded in the 20's and 30's by early (READ: bad) equipment; and the recordings have only grown worse over time. Actresses sound like Alvin the Chipmonk; actors appear to be speaking underwater; Orson Welles sounds like he is talking though a hat; and there are numerous incomprehensible off-stage sounds. The recording are a mess.
This Collection should have been distributed by in-Audible.
Raymond Chandler was a seminal author who lived an eccentric, virtually inexplicable, life. How did he become, at age 53, a significant, almost revolutionary, author of film noir after never writing anything more memorable than a spreadsheet for the oil company where he worked as an accountant for his entire pre-writing career? Why did he marry a woman 18 years older than he? Was he gay and, if so, did that affect his writing? Why did Chandler and his equally eccentric wife, Cissy, live a peripatetic life, moving almost every year of their married lives to a succession of 30 or so mostly semi-seedy, apartments?
These questions are raised, but, mostly unanswered, in “The Long Embrace”, a disjointed, not-exactly-biography that dedicates too many pages (or, if you listen to the audiobook, too many hours) tracking down Chandler and Cissy’s constant, perhaps, obsessive, moves in and around Los Angeles 70-80 years ago. Trust me, that search, loaded with irrelevant detail, is almost completely devoid of interesting information.
If you can persevere through all those pages about all those apartments, there are some interesting questions that do get somewhat addressed: To what extent can we read the enigmatic Chandler and Cissy into his various characters? How did the reclusive Chandler handle Hollywood, where he became a successful screenwriter? What did the snobbish Chandler think of the movies based on his books and how did he regard Humphrey Bogart, Dick Powell and the other actors who played Chandler’s creation, the iconic detective Philip Marlowe?
Chandler was such a unique, bizarre, brilliant, flawed character that there are inevitably some worthwhile moments in “The Long Embrace”. But they are overwhelmed by so many trips to so many apartments in so many parts of L.A. that they stand out like "a black widow spider on a piece of angel food cake".
If you enjoyed the adventures of Ken Follet’s protagonists throughout the first half of the 20th century, (as I did) and looked forward to the adventures of the third generation (as I also did), be forewarned: these apples have fallen very far from the family tree. Just as fortunes are famously lost in three generations, the characters in Ken Follett’s trilogy have lost all vestiges of the gripping personalities of their ancestors. In prior novels, Follett’s five families stood astride history; here, Zelig-like, they seem to be everywhere, but only as observers. The first generation of Edge of Eternity’s protagonists helped shape history; their descendants will not even leave fingerprints. We've gone from Earl Fitz Herbert to Forest Gump.
The characters are not only bereft of personality or any semblance of character development, they are painted in only one dimension. And even that narrow portrait just feels wrong. Unlike previous Follett figures, these characters don’t really converse; they take turns delivering stilted mini-sermons. Lev Peshkov’s African-American grandson is so focused on civil rights that he sounds like an NAACP position paper when he finally gets into bed with a women for whom he has been lusting. Ethel Williams’ 18-year-old grandson and rock star sounds like a character out of “Reefer Madness” when, in 60’s San Francisco he invites a 16-year-old girl to smoke a joint with him by asking, “Have you ever tried marijuana?” Not “dope”, grass”, “a joint”, but “marijuana”.
Follett’s portrayal of political figures (at least, the American ones) are not only one-dimensional, they are wrong. Clearly, he just doesn’t understand “how Washington works”. And his often loopy and consistently naïve analysis of history betrays his liberal agenda that targets all Republicans as the spawn of the devil. Several times, he quickly mentions Barry Goldwater whom he never fails to explicitly characterize as a racist, ignoring the reality that Goldwater was a founding member of the NAACP and helped integrate the schools in Phoenix. His anti-Republican bias is not diminished by his ugly portrayal of JFK. Certainly JFK is rumored to have had his “women issues”, but Follett’s JFK is an obsessive womanizer whose only political philosophy is expediency. There are credible stories that some American GI’s were guilty of horrendous conduct in Vietnam, but Follett crams every possible abuse into a horrific My Lai-esque event, and then implies that the incident was not an outlier, but characterizes the American experience in Vietnam. Perhaps, bumper-sticker history and over-generalizations are inevitable in a “MacHistory” novel, but they prevented me from enjoying the fiction.
I can’t decide if the narrator, who is usually excellent, did a yeoman-like job of channeling Follett’s overly-formal, unrealistic, stilted, often cringeworthy syntax or simply came off sounding like a SNL Dan Ackroyd trying to capture too many accents and too many cartoon characters. In either event, it’s hard not to roll your eyes when all southerners, white and black, in even the most intimate settings, orate like Martin Luther King delivering his “I have a dream” speech. Or break into laughter, when the Russians come across like “Rocky the Flying Squirrel’s Boris and Natasha. (I kept waiting for one of the Russian thugs to say, “Get squirrel. Get moose”.)
I have no problem suspending my disbelief and accepting that these few families could be involved in every seminal event throughout the ‘60’s and 70’s in their Forest Gump-like ways, but the real problem is that they just aren’t interesting. Sadly, these are not people with whom it is worth spending 36 hours of your life.
Don't don't be put off by the Chandler fanatics who claim that this is ersatz Chandler and nitpick the tortured metaphors that just keep coming like the gimlets in one of Marlowe's favorite dives.
The convoluted story and Marlowe philosophy are spot on.
Unfortunately, the narrator/actor is wrong for the character. He certainly speaks well; he just doesn't speak like Philip Marlowe. Elliott Gould owns that voice. He understands that Marlowe has seen too many fat cats get away with corruption, and too many nice girls rubbed out for being at the wrong place and the wrong time. He's smoked too many cigarettes, been sucker-punched too many times; and spent too many nights at the station. This author doesn't sound world-weary; he sounds like he's just come back from "senior year abroad" and is eager to tell you about his adventures.
Chabon creates a story and characters that are so real and so richly fleshed out that you are drawn into their lives and left hanging on his every word. Against an existential backdrop that would be more appropriate to a Gothic novel if it weren't true, his characters are almost Zelig-like in their interaction with historical events.
Many of my friends who read the book had a difficult time dealing with the sentences that seem to go on as long as the trials and tribulations of the characters. But the audio version makes it not only an easy, but an emotionally compelling, way to spend 26 hours and 20 minutes of your life.
I couldn't decide whether the narrator was terrific or terrible; and decided that he was a bit of both. On the one hand, it is generally quite enjoyable listening to him and he easily handles the frequently-convoluted prose in a way that mades it simple to follow the story. However, his accents are too often cringe-worthy. Joe Kavalier's Czechoslovakian accent, sounding more like a bad caricature of a Russian cab driver, almost ruined this richly drawn, romantic, character for me. Even worse, what the narrator did to Yiddish is what Hitler did to the Jews of Czechoslovakia. Chutzpah (which I am sure the narrator would have pronounced "joots-puh") can be a good thing, but trying to bluff/wing his way through "bubeleh", "kenehora", et al? Not so good.
Memo to Audible - your narrators don't have to be fluent in all the languages appearing in a book, but they do have to have the common sense to ask for help when they encounter unfamiliar words.
I would recommend the book to baseball fans and statistic junkies. Not others.
Yes, I think he is a very interesting writer.
Sounded like he was talking to me and teling me a story. Emotional, easy to understand
A few people wrote that the book would be interesting even to people who do not like baseball. That is ludicrous. It is a very interesting application of statistics used for an objective analysis of the factors leading to success in baseball. If you like that, you will enjoy this book. If you don't like baseball and numbers, your eyes will roll back in your head by the second chapter.
The manipulation by the Greeks to get into the euro financial community.
Excellent presentation, but I do not know if I have heard him before.
It is not that kind of book. It is more the kind of book where you slap your forehead wondering how they could have done what they did.
If the financial idiocy of other people and other countries make your life seem, somehow, or comforting, you also quite sure after reading this book. Even if the United States torpedoed its own economy, Michael Lewis makes it clear that we were not alone.
The US section was a bit odd. Fun, but out of sync with the rest of the book.
All in all, a fun book to listen to. It feels like Lewis is whispering stores in your ear.
Conversational and animated.
You Couldn't Make This Stuff Up
O'Reilly constantly pronounced "cavalry" as "Calvary". After the 50th time, that mispronunciation truly gets old.
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