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APO, AE, United States
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The Elements of Style audiobook cover art

Atrocious narration: Avoid Avoid Avoid

Overall
1 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-02-19

Everyone who writes in English should be familiar with the 1959 version of this book, known as Strunk & White, that New Yorker writer E. B. White edited and expanded.

This is Strunk's 1918 version, now no longer under copyright.

The narrator takes a basic instruction text and butchers it. It is apparent within the first few minutes that he is an amateur completely unpracticed in reading text in a smooth and listenable manner and that he is unfamiliar with the correct pronunciation of "rhetoric" and other essential terms. The narration completely undermines the value and purpose of the text.

Even at $1.99, this is a rip-off.

When the New Deal Came to Town audiobook cover art
  • When the New Deal Came to Town
  • A Snapshot of a Place and Time with Lessons for Today
  • By: George Melloan
  • Narrated by: Bob Souer

Hometown memories channeled via Ludwig von Mises

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-19-18

I cannot claim to compare my limited knowledge of economics with George Melloan's, but this book is far less a recollection of life in an Indiana town during the New Deal than an exercise in selecting specific anecdotes from that time to support a Austrian/Chicago school of economics interpretation of history. If those are the glasses through which you like to see the world, you'll probably love the book. But for me there was too much diatribe and not enough memoir to make it worth more than a grade of C-.

That Man audiobook cover art

Interesting perspective on FDR, lousy narration

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-06-18

That Man is somewhat an assemblage from a collection of oral history recordings and autobiographical notes that Robert H. Jackson made before his death from a heart attack at the age of 62. Jackson worked for Roosevelt as Solicitor General and Attorney General before his appointment to the Supreme Court in 1941. Jackson was one of FDR's inner circle of acquaintances, someone he invited to lunch, poker games, and fishing trips, and these memoirs portray FDR from a series of different angles: as politician; as lawyer; as economist; as friend and sportsman; and as a leader. Jackson is no idolator. He is candid about Roosevelt's shortcoming while acknowledging his strengths. He is particularly effective in showing FDR's human sides and stresses his remarkable capacity for empathy, something sorely missed with our current President. The audiobook suffers greatly, however, from Mark Moseley's frequent mangling of names: Corcoran (CORK-run) comes out as "Cor-COR-un." Brandeis (BRAN-dice) comes out "BRANDY-iss." Lilienthal (LIL-ee-en-thal) comes out "Lil-ee-EN-thal." For what is otherwise a pleasant, professional narration, these mispronunciations come like a punch in the ear.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down audiobook cover art
  • The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
  • A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures
  • By: Anne Fadiman
  • Narrated by: Pamela Xiong

Did anyone proof-listen this?

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-11-15

I have to echo the complaints of other listeners: the mispronunciations in this audiobook and little girl-ish voice of the narrator makes this listenable only by someone intent on appreciating Anne Fadiman's writing and perspective. As a story of culture clash, the book works very well--Fadiman is constantly open to the possibility of there being two different, conflicting, and yet equally valid interpretation of any situation, and she is a champion of sympathy and understanding no matter how challenging the individual or culture.

Pamela Xiong, on the other hand, not only struggles with the occasional unfamiliar word but outright butchers common ones: VAGGrunt (vagrant); indicked (indict); Wash-and-Dreeze (Wash 'n' Dris). Her attempts at dramatic emphasis come off silly and strident. Her male voices of authority are a parody of a woman attempting to imitate a man. The whole performance is just cringeworthy. It's amazing that no one has the sense to stop the production after 30 minutes of recording and hire another reader. Such a shame to see a fine book treated so poorly.

23 of 23 people found this review helpful

The Trial [Alpha DVD] audiobook cover art

Excellent match of text and performer--a steal

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-20-14

The Trial may be the greatest book ever written about the ruthless, logical absurdity of a bureaucracy at its most extreme. If you've ever gotten the run-around at the DMV or your insurance company, you will find the story of Josef K uncomfortably familiar. Dick Hill has just the right voice--a little older, precise, particular--to deliver this text in its cold, comic perfection. Well done.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass audiobook cover art

Astonishly versatile and funny performance

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-20-14

I am in awe of Christopher Plummer's enormous range of vocal characterizations, many of them hysterically idiosyncratic and affected. I could easily listen to this again just to marvel at his audacity. He threw himself headlong into this performance. Nothing you've seen him do on screen will prepare you for this, and perhaps it's his experience as a dramatic, subtle actor that provided him with a rock-solid foundation from which to launch into dizzingly comic heights. Wonderful.

Count Luna audiobook cover art

Paranoia dialled up to 11

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-20-14

A Kafka-esque black comedy, Count Luna is a tale of a man allowing his paranoia to spin out of control, with fatal consequences to a number of innocent bystanders and ultimately to himself. Lernet-Holenia treats his hero with an ice cold ruthlessness that just makes the bitterness of his situation all the more comic. Jessiersky's fate is as bleak and savagely funny as that of Tony Last in Waugh's Decline and Fall. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

A Short Stay in Hell audiobook cover art

Great premise, disappointing realization

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-20-14

The premise of a Hell built of an infinite number of shelves all filled with random, meaningless texts--not even text, just letters--sounded like the terrific basis for a novella. But Peck falls into a common trap of novice writers: he tries to explain too many practical details in a situation in which sense is largely unnecessary. This weakness is compounded by the the failure to deliver a story with a shape and direction. Kafka was a master of absurd situations and exploited that to free himself of a narrative shape, but with similar raw ingredients, the result here is well short of the master's.

The Dead Father audiobook cover art

If prepared for post-modernist comedy, drive on!

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-06-14

If what you enjoy is a straightforward narrative told in straightforward prose, turn around now. Barthelme is unapologetically post-modernist in approach and outlook, and in the case of "The Dead Father," introduces a healthy dose of surrealism as well. The Dead Father is an enormous figure being dragged towards some little-explained destination. He's dead. But he's not. He is a symbolic figure, at times even a mythic figure--he creates a new god just by sticking one eye in a river.

Much of the book is snatches of dialogue, sometimes in clear context, sometimes nearly incoherent. Which is actually why it lends itself to the audiobook format, at least in the hands of a reader prepared to piece out which remark belongs to which character. Dennis Holland does a superb job of interpreting a very challenging text, and the listener owes him for his work in helping us through the work. The reading reminded very much of Nick Sullivan's outstanding reading of William Gaddis' "J.R.," and if you appreciate Gaddis' humor, you are well prepared to enjoy Barthelme's. There are moments of such wonderful wordplay and verbal juxtapositions that I burst out laughing.

While this isn't one of my top 10 audiobooks, it's one I'm very satisfied to have purchased and listened to.

Barry Lyndon audiobook cover art

A masterful reading

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-14-14

If you've seen Stanley Kubrick's film of "Barry Lyndon," you know the story but not the character. Ryan O'Neal played Barry Lyndon as a rather tender innocent who becomes spoiled by exposure to cheats and tricksters, but Thackeray's Barry Lyndon was quite a different person. He is boastful, conceited, loud-mouthed, a lecher, a gambler, a blackmailer, a liar, and a drunk. "I never struck my wife but when I was in liquor," he comments at one point, as if it was sufficient justification. In other words, he is one of the great anti-heroes of fiction, a man who manages to insult his mother as pretentious, long-winded and vain in the same moment as he is praising her loyalty. Thackeray was making fun of the so-called Irish nobility, who claimed to be descendants of kings while living in "castles" little better than hovels, and "Barry Lyndon" is a satire painted in broad, comic strokes. Jonathan Keeble's reading is one of the finest I've heard in the course of listen to over a hundred Audible titles. He wrings every comic drop from the text, even getting a good laugh just by his interpretation of Thackeray's blanks ("the Duke of ___"). I can't imagine anyone giving a better performance of this text. Thoroughly enjoyable.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful