Written in sharp, witty prose and peppered with absorbing ruminations on graphic design, this stand-alone sequel to Chip Kidd's previous novel, The Cheese Monkeys, again shows that Kidd's writing is every bit as original, stunning, and memorable as his celebrated book jackets.
©2008 Charles Kidd; (P)2008 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"[A] beautifully composed paean to pre-computer graphic design...Kidd's ebullience and generosity in unpacking the art and practice of graphic design carry the novel." (Publishers Weekly)
I love the BBC and British mysteries, but my tastes are very eclectic. I live with my husband and menagerie of rescued cats and dogs.
I truly loved The Learners for the first third or so. It was charming, witty, and at times laugh-out-loud funny. Bronson Pinchot is a fantastic narrator, performing every voice so that I felt like I knew those people. His reading is certainly a 5-star performance, even though his material fell short.
The problem I had with this book was its inconsistency of tone. About a third of the way through to book, it abruptly turns from a light-hearted read (with a few weightier moments) into a maudlin presentation of a series of depressing events. I didn't expect the book to be "happy" all the time, but such a disparity was startling. The product description told us that the main character would face something devastating, but the change in tone just took it too far.
I certainly am not advocating staying away from this book. I am still glad I got it--if for nothing more than Pinchot's narration. But you should know what you're getting. If you like the sample, the narration is that fanststic consistently. If you're looking for the book to maintain that tone-- it won't.
The author is clearly in love with graphic design, advertising, and how it was practiced in the pre-digital age. That passion does bring a nice level of detail to the book, but that's about the only nice thing I can say. Well, I could also add that Pinchot does do a fine job with the reading.
The humor of the book falls flat as do the cardboard cut out wacky/tragic characters. The whole thing reads like a pale imitation of Cofederacy of Dunces. There is not much believable, charming, or funny about any of them or the situations they get into.
Without revealing anything specific I can only say that this sequel was a jarring segue from The Cheese Monkeys, which I loved. It's less of a sequel and more of a macabre digression.
First, Bronson Pinchot is great!
Next, this was a good freshman effort, I suppose. My favorite character was Winter Sorbek. As a teacher, I feel his rage at students who wander through life and expect the answers to be handed to them because they paid the tuition, but don't bother to THINK and WORK!
I enjoyed Happy's trials at trying to solve problems, and navigate his first year of college.
Himilsy (sp?) was interesting (to me as a west-coaster completely unfamiliar with the stuffy, lock-jawed intonations of aimless elites).
While the story is set in the late 50's, Himilsy's character today would be a chain-smoking vegan, but not militant about it. She is interesting also being what we now would call a 'Fag-Hag". Perhaps she'd be a prototype.
I would have liked more background on the characters. I want to know more about why Winter and Himilsy are the way they are. Himilsy clearly hates herself, but the climax of the book makes me wonder why.
There are a couple of flaws that are gaping holes: without giving too much away....... Happy creates some compromising photos, and Himilsy is alluded to have had a sexual tryst or relationship, and both of these could have done with a bit more description. I can't help but think that Kidd kept the description of these to a minimum to keep with the 50's tone of the book when such things weren't discussed in polite company. However, as the old adage goes, "Show, Don't Tell".
It's a good listen, and fairly short.
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