Thursday, January 7, 2016

Audiobook Review: The Final Four

Editor's Note: I reviewed audiobooks I listened to in the car while driving to and from residency interviews. You can find other installments hereherehere, and here. A combined review can be found on the IPRH Reading Matters blog.

This is the final installment of my roadtrip audiobook review series, with two hits and two (near) misses.

First up is Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake (2003), which promised 10.5 hours of dystopia while I criss-crossed the eastern United States. I think I made it through one disc. I was disappointed not to like this book more, since I remember Atwood's rewritten fairy tales to have been formational to my feminist education in college. But the narrative simply did not capture my attention, and finally I could not stand to hear any more about the main character, Jimmy, a name that grates my nerves (yes, really; it's petty but true). I don't think I liked the voice actor, either.

Second is Wishful Drinking (2008), written and read by actress Carrie Fisher. She is honest about the struggles she's had with substance abuse and mental health (which I am too young to remember from the tabloids), and her biting wit can be quite funny in an I'm-a-mature-woman-and-I-no-longer-give-a-damn kind of way. This is the book form of Fisher's one-woman show, and while I found it highly entertaining, the level of detail she went into about her relationships with her daughter and with ex-husband Paul Simon, or about other people's faults and relationships, unsettled me. 

Third is Ava's Man (2001), a biography of author Rick Bragg's maternal grandfather to go with his first book, All over but the Shoutin' (1998), a biography of his maternal grandmother. Set in rural Appalachia in the first half of the 20th century, this one describes the rough-and-tumble, nigh-legendary life of one Charlie Budrum, a scrappy moonshiner, roofer, and storyteller who carted his family back and forth across the Alabama-Georgia border looking for work and running from the law and jilted landlords. One might accuse Bragg of romanticizing the Depression-era rural South, but he strives to include both the violent code of honor in a time and place before consistent civil services and the boom-bust of wartime industries that lured men out of the woods to the cities with their families, only to leave them without income or safety net afterward. Bragg's subtle Southern drawl and colloquialisms accentuate this tapestry of Americana.

Fourth is a short story audiobook I highly recommend: The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains: A Tale of Travel and Darkness with Pictures of All Kinds (2014), written and voiced by Neil Gaiman. Way back in high school I read the first volume of The Sandman (as one did in high school in the 1990s), and I'm sorry to say I've never gotten around to any of Gaiman's other works, although Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, which Gaiman co-wrote with Terry Pratchett, is now on my radar. So I was intrigued to find this short (1 hour, 22 min.s) audiobook on the shelves of our local libraryThe (R-rated) story--set in what I assumed was the British isles in the 18th century--takes the perspective of a leprechaun, a mercenary and a father, on a personal quest. The dark and haunting mood is heightened by the accompaniment of the FourPlay Quartet. I can't say much more without giving it all away. I will say that I was surprised to discover the book's subtitle while writing this review, and the previews on Amazon make me want to check the book out of our local library to enjoy Eddie Campbell's illustrations.

What are you reading (listening to) this summer?

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