Los Angeles, CA, United States | Member Since 2006
This is a superb series of lectures walking you through Joyce's very difficult novel. I read Ulysses in college and although I remembered a great deal about it, there were many aspects of it that passed me by at the time. Prof. Heffernan is skillful and entertaining as he takes you chapter-by-chapter through the thorny book. He's particularly good at explicating the Homeric parallel.
The Great Courses format is frankly absurd, with its 30-minute chunks, applause and the same damned bit of Brandenburg concerto at the head of every lecture.
Jeffrey Perl was my advisor as an English major back in college. He was a spellbinding lecturer, brilliant and cocksure. My friends and I would leave his lectures dazzled, the whole universe making sense for a few minutes afterwards.
This course, recorded in the late 90's, is a distillation of the Modern British Literature class I took in the mid-80's. That class took a whole semester and we spent two weeks on Ulysses alone. Here, the good Prof. is forced to disgorge his theories about Joyce in less than an hour; similarly, his very interesting unit on Samuel Beckett is squeezed into half an hour! Since I remember these lectures very well I was able to follow his line of reasoning, but when Perl was presenting his new research on TS Eliot, based on work he'd done in the intervening time, I almost got lost.
I'm sure Prof. Perl got a couple of bills (and I hope some residuals) to compact his basic class into six and a half hours over two days. He's a great thinker and I can recommend this course if you're familiar with the works discussed (Eliot, Yeats, Pound, Joyce, Waugh, Beckett), but I would hesitate to get it if not.
For the first 100 pp. I was enraptured. Richard Price is a master who paints a vivid picture of a New York neighborhood and its characters. Aided by a great performance by Bobby Cannavale, whose NYC stuffy-nosed accent is just right, you can really see and hear the scenes and conversations he creates.
For all that I felt my interest flagging a bit by p. 300 or so. The story is very episodic, so after a while you're just ready for it to wrap up.
I loved, loved, loved Rabbit Run but I have to disagree with the other reviewers about Redux--this book is mostly interesting as an historical artifact, as Updike goes for a working-class take on the late 60's. I imagine Updike in 1970 trying to recreate how the Vietnam war, black power, hippies and the sexual revolution would look to him if he'd never gotten out of his small Pennsylvania town, and this is the result. The events of the book just seem random; the black character actually has some nuance, but when he forces Rabbit to take lessons in black history it just seems like a white liberal's paranoid fantasy.
I've been told that Rabbit is Rich is similarly a let-down, but the last of the bunch, Rabbit at Rest, is a masterpiece worthy of Rabbit Run. I'll have to see.
The reader does a very poor job, I must say. He may have been chosen for the weary working-class quality of his voice, but he doesn't seem to be listening to the story as he reads.
This is an entertaining story of a young detective trying to solve a murder in a time when no one cares because the world is about to end. It's well-written, but not very deep. It's a good read but more of a time-filler than an occasion for reflection.
The Luminaries is a great read for anyone who enjoys 19th-century British novels. Catton's prose is of a decidedly Victorian bent, beautiful descriptions spilling out as a Wilkie Collins-type plot unfolds. Now, I read the Woman in White recently and ended up angry at its cheap coincidences, but The Luminaries doesn't have any of those. For most of the book it's very funny and a real page turner, even with its formal prose style. There's also a fascinating portrayal of early New Zealand society, which indeed was the author's aim.
What it does have is a weird structure in which little pieces of the whole plot drip out for 800pp., followed by a rush to the finish that doesn't even answer all the reader's questions. Upon finishing I went online and was both relieved and annoyed to find that the unexplained pieces of the plot are just that. There's also an astrological theme throughout that I confess I couldn't follow (even looking at the charts at the head of each section in the print book, which the audiobook of course omits).
Mark Meadows may be the very best narrator I've ever listened to, as he switches effortlessly through a variety of British, Scottish and Irish accents.
Robert Sams reads this book sounding almost like a computer-generated voice--with little variation of tone and clearly NO idea what he's saying. Since I'm whispersyncing with a Kindle copy, I can tell you that this novel is filled with hilarious characters and biting social commentary, but he misses the point entirely! I had to stop sometimes and think through the words to get the joke or even just to get the meaning. Sams has no interest in this book and should really be replaced with a reader who will deign to make it comprehensible. BOO!
The characters are almost all British--why didn't they get an English actor to read it?
Cradled in a fine evocation of the world of the New York art scene circa 1976 and the tumult of labor protests in Italy are a torrent of shorter narratives, almost like a Thousand and One Nights. Most though not all of the stories she tells are enjoyable and contribute to the world she's portraying. I'm not certain it all hangs together, but I suspect I'll be chewing this one over for a while.
The narrator has a pleasant voice that is just right for the protagonist's unsure 23-year-old self. When she says "I" you really believe she's the one telling you this story. However, her intonation is sometimes way off, as if she's concentrating on keeping a smooth delivery at the expense of understanding what she's saying.
I picked this up because there's a reference to it in Ulysses, and Joyce owes a tiny debt to Wilkie Collins for developing the idea of a multi-narrator novel. With Collins' The Moonstone, it has a place in history as the original mystery novel.
That said, it's very hokey stuff, a bad gothic story that relies on a string of coincidences and a very Victorian concept of foreigners. Some of the descriptions of action are just hideously long and dull. I almost gave up halfway through.
The readers trade off, Prebble reading the male narrators and Bailey the female ones. Both are masters of the craft.
The rendering of Pablo Neruda is by far the best part of the book. As Ampuero says in the postscript, he aimed to bring El Poeta down to earth, show him for the great but flawed person he was. By all means, go read some Neruda poems when you're done; they'll bring out the Great Man part.
The "mystery", such as it is, is disappointing, just this-happened-then-this-then-this, even as the story goes all over the world. As the Pinochet coup approaches, descriptions of Chile in turmoil are vivid and harrowing, but are over almost as soon as they begin.
I found the reading professional but perfunctory.
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