Saturday, December 12, 2015

Review: Macbeth

Macbeth Macbeth by William Shakespeare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Four and a half stars, with one major flaw: the producers chose to do this funny little trick of overlaying Cumming's voices when he was multiple characters, namely three weird sisters when they spoke at once. The result was echo-y and distracting. Otherwise, the whole thing felt like the smartest guy in the neighborhood inviting you over to listen to him read, and you cared: knew the story and really wanted to hear how he delivered. It was intimate and rewarding. It also made me think about how it is a story of Scots and English.

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Review: The Stranger

The Stranger The Stranger by Albert Camus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

...kinda can't overlook how groundbreaking it all feels; very cinematic, too. The version I listened to was translated by Matthew Ward, and read by Jonathan Davis, which was not exceptional, but nor was it a hindrance to my appreciation.

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Monday, December 07, 2015

Review: Nixon and Mao: The Week That Changed the World

Nixon and Mao: The Week That Changed the World Nixon and Mao: The Week That Changed the World by Margaret MacMillan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really, this is a five-star book, but i have a tough time doing that for historical writing to often; and, as an audiobook, Barbara Caruso makes for a terrific reader. I am preparing for a trip to China in 2016 and this is a terrific way to think about how we got to where we are - summarizing the 20th century's great historical arcs and whats changed since 1972. I must now certainly also reconsider how I think about Nixon, who I think I'd known more through Dan Aykroyd's impersonation than anything else.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Review: To the Lighthouse

To the Lighthouse To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow. I just finished this...what was it? Was it more conceit than content? There were times when it was so raw and real and other moments where the words became disjointed and the metaphors overwrought. But, man!:

"Night after night, summer and winter, the torment of storms, the arrow-like stillness of fine (had there been any one to listen) from the
upper rooms of the empty house only gigantic chaos streaked with lightning could have been heard tumbling and tossing, as the winds and waves disported themselves like the amorphous bulks of leviathans whose brows are pierced by no light of reason, and mounted one on top of
another, and lunged and plunged in the darkness or the daylight (for night and day, month and year ran shapelessly together) in idiot games,
until it seemed as if the universe were battling and tumbling, in brute confusion and wanton lust aimlessly by itself.

In spring the garden urns, casually filled with wind-blown plants, were gay as ever. Violets came and daffodils. But the stillness and the
brightness of the day were as strange as the chaos and tumult of night, with the trees standing there, and the flowers standing there, looking
before them, looking up, yet beholding nothing, eyeless, and so terrible."

Book II Chap. 7


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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Review: Beowulf

Beowulf Beowulf by Unknown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Heaney does the Audiobook and it's pretty great: evokes Tolkien and Joyce together.

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Review: Beowulf

Beowulf Beowulf by Unknown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Heaney does the Audiobook and it's pretty great: evokes Tolkein and Joyce together.

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Review: Kirby: King of Comics

Kirby: King of Comics Kirby: King of Comics by Mark Evanier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Coming to a close as bed time reading with my son. And I love that this is our first joint absorption of an art history text. I got it a couple of years ago, hoping for just that. It has been mutually edifying.

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Friday, November 13, 2015

Review: Gulliver's Travels: A Signature Performance by David Hyde Pierce

Gulliver's Travels: A Signature Performance by David Hyde Pierce Gulliver's Travels: A Signature Performance by David Hyde Pierce by Jonathan Swift
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

While the book and this reading take some time to warm up to, by the time you get passed the cartoon-like images that wend away in the popular mind around the concept of Gulliver's Travels, and surpass the potential Disney-esque sound and presentation of David Hyde Pierce's voice, the original tone of Swift as an early 18th c. satirist with a seeming encyclopedic understanding for world knowledge by which he can take the ironic tone he does rings out true and loud and so relevant to this age. The Classic nature of this work is inspiring, as true as a surviving Platonic discourse or astounding as Melville's how-the-heck-did-he-do-it-before-the-internet global grasp in his whale book.

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Thursday, November 05, 2015

Review: Light in August (12 Audiocassettes) Unabridged

Light in August (12 Audiocassettes) Unabridged Light in August (12 Audiocassettes) Unabridged by William Faulkner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This reading by Mark Hammer is extraordinary, breathing life into every character and navigating time lapses, twists, narrative turns and capturing subtle accents and regionalisms with finesse and caring. At once he is Mitchum's Max Cady and then he is Steiger's Gillespie. At moments you feel a small, half-drunk Faulkner himself etching the Shakespearean prose out in a hard, stubby pencil then banging away all night on a typewriter; and this reader persists. It's just terrific!

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Review: Kafka on the Shore

Kafka on the Shore Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Five Star Fiction. Thank you, Mr. Murakami: I will never forget it.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Review: The William Faulkner Audio Collection

The William Faulkner Audio Collection The William Faulkner Audio Collection by William Faulkner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Enjoying the ride, and the language, but its a mixed bag overall in the performances. Carradine's delivery of the novella "Spotted Horses" is breathlessly terrific! Debra Winger just doesn't do it for me, and the Faulkner himself is kinda indecipherable. The readings from "That Evening Sun" ruin the story for its honestly racist interpretation. Still, I listened for love of the story. But, even if Faulkner was a matter-of-fact racist, of-his-age and sublime in his interpretations of the struggles of the legacies of slavery and an impoverished white south, that man reading didn't have no right to make Nancy sound like that.

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Friday, October 16, 2015

Review: My Father's Tears and Other Stories

My Father's Tears and Other Stories My Father's Tears and Other Stories by John Updike
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just finished this as a "book on tape," well CDs. It's my first foray into Updike since "Rabbit Run" in high school. The work is drenched with all of the fragile humanity and glistening prose of infidelity, divorce and real talk that has kept me from him all these years. I have been building my own life with an eye on solidity and a desired permanence. I do not need his encouragement. He was a college classmate of my dad's and that has always meant a lot to me. This late-in-life collection displays a craftsman at a pinnacle before the precipice, ripe with similes and metaphors that make you rethink how you process every word and thought yourself.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Review: Motown: Music, Money, Sex, and Power

Motown: Music, Money, Sex, and Power Motown: Music, Money, Sex, and Power by Gerald Posner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After a trip to the Motown Museum this summer, and swinging by Michael Jackson's birthhome in Gary, IN, I have been reading a few books on Detroit and Motown. I cried uncontrollably in the Museum. There's something about Motown: Detroit, Gordy, Motown 25 as a watershed moment in my life, what I teach my son and want him to know, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder...so much about what's great and abysmal about the United States in the second half of the twentieth century. The author writes about MJ and quotes him: Shy and withdrawn and so soft-spoken that often people had to strain to hear him, he felt at home only when performing. “I was raised on stage,” he told one journalist. “And I am more comfortable out there that I am right now. When it comes time to go off, I don't want to. I feel like there are angels on all corners, protecting me. I could sleep on stage.” (p.237)

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Thursday, September 10, 2015

Review: Open City

Open City Open City by Teju Cole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed Open City, especially right now as I an considering writing something longer in a first person narrator's voice about place and that's distinct and indulgently pretentious, the kind of voice that I find satisfying and inspiring when in the mood. And I'm not being sardonic; kinda earnest, in fact. Open City was recommended to me because I was talking about how much I was loving the seemingly meaningless but evocatively detailed prose of Murakami, not knowing how to put my finger on why I was drawn forward into his narratives. The way Cole picks up on the overriding issue of the immigrant in Europe - focused on assimilated Muslims - and America is very right now; and the narrator as a man of many countries who succeeds as a practicing doctor, all the while menaced by memory and even once attacked, is compelling and necessary. Still: when it was over, I did not feel changed, per se; but the work will certainly continue to bounce around in my mind and ideas will resurface from time to time, I'm sure.

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