Winner of Borders "Original Voices" Book of the Year and a New York Times Editors' Choice, Ballad of the Whiskey Robber tells the hilarious and improbable true story of Attila Ambrus, the Robin Hood of Eastern Europe. He's the onetime pelt smugger, goaltender (possibly the worst in the history of pro hockey), pen salesman, Zamboni driver, gravedigger, church painter, roulette addict, building superintendent, whiskey drinker, and native of Transylvania who's decided that the best thing to do with his time is to rob as many banks as possible.
Welcome to Julian Rubinstein's uproariously funny and unforgettable account of crime in the heart of the new Europe. Part Unbearable Lightness of Being, part Pink Panther, and part Slap Shot, Rubinstein's tale is a spectacular literary debut - and a story so outrageous that it could only be true.
©2004 Julian Rubinstein; (P)2006 Time Warner AudioBooks, a division of the AOL Time Warner Book Group
"Must be heard to be believed." (The Onion)
"Offers that simple pleasure, a great story." (Esquire)
"Outrageously entertaining." (San Francisco Chronicle)
"Rubinstein has found a story of the sort that would make even the most dry-mouthed journalist slobber. Sometimes sad, often hilarious and always absurd." (The New York Times)
I loved this book. It was excellent on three levels, maybe more:
1. The bare facts of the story are wild and entertaining. You gotta love Attila.
2. The writing was superb. Julian Rubenstein has an understated writing style that allows the events and characters to speak for themselves. I'm tempted to track down some of his sports writing just to enjoy the prose.
3. The reading and production actually enhanced the already great writing. I think it was the author himself who was the main narrator--if so, he might want to consider switching careers. He's a lot more enjoyable to listen to than some voice actors I've heard. The occasional interjections of dialogue by other voices took a bit of getting used to, but I ended up loving that as well.
This book is very funny and on top of that, it's a real story. The reader is also very good. I highly recommend it.
The Whiskey Robber certainly was an interesting character and I can't help but think, had he been focused differently, what he could have accomplished. This book is narrated by the author and as usual this is not the best idea, yet there are enough other voices to enhance the storytelling. Based on a true story about a Hungarian (actually displaced Romanian) robber who becomes a Folk Hero. A truly fascinating man and his tale is entertaining.
The book reads like a novel but is actually a fact filled story. It chronicles the life of the Whiskey Robber, Attila, who apparently had some notoriety in Hungary during the late 1980's. Attila has his own imperfections, and we are were cheering for him even though we wish he could just get it together in his life. The book is generally amusing. The beginning of the book is a little slow but the book ends very well and is worth the wait. The reader could have more spring in his voice, but the many other voices that are used are excellent. Good for a light read.
This book was a blast to listen to. The reader was fantastic, and it was more like theater, complete with occasional music and sound effects, than a straight reading. The introduction gave a good quick synopsis of the history of Hungary, but it was the combination of dry and almost slapstick humor that made this book sing for me. I gave my son, who is living in Europe, the actual book, and he said he was reading it on a train when a group of Hungarians recognized the title and all started talking to him about this guy (with great enthusiasm). By the end of the book, the plight of the Whiskey Robber is clearly very sad and discouraging, but it was one of the most engaging stories I've listened to.
I was excited, but it's just OK. The narrator's clearly non-professional voice and sporadic snippets of instrumental music made me feel like I was listening to "This American Life". Like that show, this book is interesting but slow and kind of dull.
There is far too much history of the region in the beginning, needlessly extending the length of the book. It is strictly chronological; I feel it would have been far better if it jumped around a bit to keep things interesting. The protagonist isn't really much of a hero, or even an anti-hero: he's a drunken liar with no sense of purpose. His only motivation is money, for spending.
There's an entertaining quality to the story - the bumbling heists, incompetent police - but not much actually happens. He robs some post offices and banks, gets away with small amounts, and is eventually caught.
I stopped listening when my next credit came along and only finished it months later when I ran out of other books.
On a personal note, the historical background on the country helped explain why my Romanian college roommate was such a pathetic loser.
José M. Batista
This is an interesting and well told biography, although I think it would benefit if trimmed somewhat.
What I really did not appreciate was an uninspired narration sprinkled with mostly difficult to understand and ridiculous sounding theatrics.
This story illustrates that, sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction. Written in a manner that is both sympathetic and critical. I can't imagine how lucky Attila Ambrus has been, even to be alive. He is obviously far more intelligent than his lifestyle belies. I hope that when he gets out of prison, he will find a constructive outlet and lay off booze. Listening to this performance was undoubtedly better than reading the book.
Hearing the weird music at the beginning of this book, I thought I'd made a bad choice. But with nothing else to listen to, I kept listening. Within minutes I was captivated by the narrator and the writing. Funny, sad, exciting, inevitable. You'll feel like an expert on Budapest banks after this book. Loved it.
I'm about halfway through the book and I love the way it's narrated with different actors and short segments of music in between.
However, while the acting and narration is good, the fake hungarian accents are distracting (and sound more russian than hungarian).
Most importantly, all the hungarian words in the book (there are many!!!) are pronounced wrong. It would have been nice to have a narrator who either learns how to pronounce the words he's reading or someone who already knows how to pronounce them.
Overall, I still highly recommend this audiobook!
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