©1973 Saul Bellow; (P)1992 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
This is a wonderful and compelling reading of a very good book: one that would be very easy to ruin with an unintelligent interpretation.
No, there is not a lot of "plot" per se and it is highly discursive: welcome to Bellow's world! There's a passage of several pages where Charlie considers the subject of productive inactivity from every possible angle, which struck me as almost a manifesto for the technique of the novel itself. Events in the outside world mainly serve to prompt ruminating, reflecting, and reminiscing.
But make no mistake: there is in fact a story, it features great, colorful characters, it's told in beautiful language, and it's very entertaining all the way through. It made me laugh out loud all the time. And finally, countless little plot threads that have meandered through the text for hours all get neatly tied up into a satisfying screwball ending.
But the book is not really about the destination. It's about the journey. The book is drenched with warm-hearted nostalgia, and a comprehensive generosity of spirit that is hard to find anywhere in the world, at any time. Charlie Citrine makes the world a bigger and friendlier place to be.
And again, this reader is probably the best possible reader they could have chosen for the part. I plan to give this book a second and third listen in the future. This definitely ranks up there with Ron Silver's reading of American Pastoral, George Guidall's reading of Zorba the Greek, and Donal Donelly's reading of Dubliners as one of the best audiobook performances I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing.
Thickly spread with self-reflection, this story seems to move slowly, but each aside engrosses the reader and moves the story along. Filled with social commentary that will sparkle for decades.
The reader is tireless and without error. He renders the first-person Charlie in a believable and consistent voice.
Business Physicist and Astronomer
Herzog! Bam! Henderson the Rain King! Bam! The Victim! Bam! The Adventures of Augie March! Bam!
I seem to have fallen into a Saul Bellow groove. I've enjoyed (Very good to Great) every audio title until this one. I wasn't crazy about the narration but the reader is supposed to be jaded and snarky so I'll give Hurt a pass though I believe much of the Bellow philosophy of life is lost in the monotonous delivery.
I don't think this is Bellow's best but it's still got plenty of meat and a lot of it very tender and delicious near the ample bone. There's a bit of fat and a vein of gristle that makes the book a little dated---it's destined to be a period piece.
The biggest complaint is the awful, tin can like audio quality. I tried all the formats and it made no difference. I thought my ear buds were failing so I got new ones. This book just has lousy sound. If there was another version, read by someone else, I'd ask Audible for a credit. But, alas, there isn't and I may come back to this again so I'll keep it.
I wouldn't recommend it to you.
Chris Reich, The Business Physicist
I really enjoyed this book. Journey into his mind. Much to digest over time. The writing was truly mesmerizing, no matter what he was talking about, no matter how gross or how lofty, I was captivated.
Wait... you do know who wrote this right? This is Saul Bellow. There's no way you're not going to read this, even if it IS with your ears.
The first audio book I've not been able to finish. The narration is so bad that I found myself struggling to understand what he says. He drops the ends of words, trails away at the ends sentences, and makes the listener work to parse out what he's saying. Listen to the sample - when I first heard this bit on my iPhone, I couldn't tell if he was talking about "the melancholy of affluence" or "the melancholy of Athens"! Too many instances like this make you too aware of the narrator and knock you out of the story. A shame.
The pace of this book is pedestrian at best with the main character rather self absorbed and brooding. The relationships tend to be self serving and hedonistic. I found the reading experiance left me depressed and hollow. While the main character, Charlie, had many redeeming qualities he seemed to have no spiritual foundation or sense of where these moral imperatives came from. Even with all his introspective broodings he was clueless about why he acted the way he did or was offended by the actions of the other characters when they crossed certain moral boundries.
In terms of the quality of the reader, very good, but the book is long winded and repetitive.
An elegant conclusion left a feeling of satisfaction.
He had a pleasant voice which suited the narrator.
Navel gazing galore!
Bellow's hero is a mid twentieth century author not too dissimilar from himself. His quest for truth requires introspection rather than action, but a glorious list of writers and philosophers are bit players in the story.
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