Flashback Friday: In Cold Blood

Recently a few people on twitter decided to listen to Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood (narrated by Scott Brick.) As I listened to this fairly recently and, I already was committed to another audiobook, I wasn’t up for a re-listen; but I wanted to play too! So, today I offer this, my journal entry from July 2008:

In Cold Blood

By Truman Capote
Narrated by Scott Brick
14.45 hours

Listening to In Cold Blood was close to having someone read the newspaper aloud to you. Scott Brick was absolutely neutral in his reporting of the text, lending accented language when appropriate, bur never over-the-top. There are some noticeable intakes of breath as Scott Brick launches into a sentence or two and; if you try to up the bass on your stereo, be aware there is no bass to “up!” Overall, however, this is a clean recording. The story itself is intriguing in that you know who, what where, when and, why up front, but you’re compelled to listen to the story anyway. The listener is eager to understand the dynamic between Perry Smith and Dick Hickock (the murderers) and how the KBI (Kansas Bureau of Investigation) puts the case together. The final discs address capital punishment and are definitely served as food for thought.

You can join @bostonbibliophi, @braincandybr and @lithousewife in their twitter listen-along of Truman Cappote’s In Cold Blood from July 5-10, 2011. On July 10, 2011 at 8:00 p.m. EST, they will conclude with a discussion (on twitter.) The hashtag is #ICBaudio.

Flashback Friday: 1984

In Monday’s feature, The Pink Chair: Where’s My 1984, Narrated by Simon Vance?, I talked a little bit about rights and mentioned that Blackstone Audio, Inc. currently holds the exclusive rights to the straight narration of 1984 (by George Orwell.) Though you can’t get the audiobook as narrated by Simon Vance, I happen to think that the audiobook produced by Blackstone is pretty good! In fact, it’s one of the titles in my personal Pantheon of All-Time Great Audiobooks! Some other people think it’s pretty good too because it was a 2008 Audie Award Finalist in the category of Classics. LOL, I always love validation of my good tastes!
I listened to the audio in January of 2009 and below is my journal entry from that time:

1984

by George Orwell
narrated by Simon Prebble
11.40 Hours

> For those who have not read “1984” or read it and forgotten it, “1984” is a novel published in 1949 about the totalitarian society that George Orwell imagined in place by 1984. Superficially, it is an expression of the post-war zeitgeist, which was still tainted with the bitter after-taste of Nazism, Fascism and, confronted with new fears of Stalinism and The Atomic Age. On a more academic level, it is a political treatise about citizen complacency and, the mechanics and motives for power. The story itself contains finely wrought tension and sere descriptions of time, place, and character. There is a horrific quality to the story and you need to remind yourself that, this is a work of fiction. This is a near definitive narration of a novel, SP shaping the text with nuance and boldness alike. Small narration and production issues prevented me from grading this higher: A slight lisp tended to spike against the eardrums a bit, causing me to change out headsets to more forgiving speakers; The narrator sounded a slightly rushed in the final tracks; The overall recording is mastered at a very high volume causing me to lower the gain and; finally, there wasn’t an auditory cue to delineate the end of the story from the Appendix (even a longer pause would have been nice.)
GRADE: A-

Other Stuff: I borrowed a MP3-CD edition of 1984 from Blackstone Audio, Inc. The production issues mentioned above may have since been or probably were taken care of since then; so you need to take my comments with a grain of salt :-/

Audiobook Review: Matterhorn

Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War
By Karl Marlantes
Narrated by Bronson PInchot
Ⓟ 2010, Blackstone Audio, Inc.
20.4 hours
HISTORICAL FICTION

 

I picked this title up because of the helicopter on the cover. Yep, that’s right, I let cover art influence my reading choice! There is something about a helicopter in flight that evokes excited feelings of hope, rescue and relief. If I were a different kind of person, I might feel the same way about an image of a Prince Charming on a white charger, but I’m not and so there it is. I do not generally judge a book by its cover, but in this case, the helicopter was the siren song that seduced me into choosing this title. The only question that remained was whether I would read the book in print or, listen to it in audio.
 
That question was answered when the narrator was in Ashland, OR and my husband and I took him out to dinner. During the course of the dinner, Bronson was asking about “the Columbus book.” It was explained to him that the book was WAITING FOR COLUMBUS (by Thomas Trofimuk; narrated by Grover Gardner) and that, while recording the book, Grover had become so emotionally enmeshed with the text that he actually broke down during the studio sessions. Bronson then said that he had had the same experience while narrating MATTERHORN and, that was what decided it for me. That kind of narrator engagement and response to a story is rare and always something special.
 
So, I pulled a copy from Blackstone’s warehouse and I spent the next couple of weeks listening to one of the best audiobooks I have ever heard, finishing late on a Saturday night. At the beginning of the audio I took the time to draft out a chart of the characters. You can see the Command Structure/List of Characters if you “Look Inside” the book on Amazon.com or you can draft out your own chart within a couple of minutes (I drafted first and compared.) After having written it down, it was pretty much set in my mind. I referred to it once after that to scribble a note about Lt. Col. Simpson (sometimes, Lt. Col. Simpson was referred to as “Big John Six” and other times just as “Big John.”)
 
Anyway, this is why you should listen to MATTERHORN:
  • Excellent writing: From the opening lines to the close of the novel, the author immediately and effectively places the reader/listener in Vietnam, 1969. The imagery is evocative without dipping into superfluous metaphor and, the scenes resonate with physical and psychological detail;
  • Excellent narration: I had one small gripe about the narrator which was that the first three of four times he says the word “gook,” he pronounces it to rhyme with “book.” The rest of the time, he pronounces the word to rhyme with “kook.” Both are correct, but the inconsistency bothered me. The times he pronounced “gook” like “book” I was taken out of the story. But outside of that, I would have to say the narration was flawless. Bronson channeled the characters and the material so effectively that he literally disappeared into the book and the characters spoke (and BTW, “Balki” does not make an appearance in any way, shape or form!)
  • For the veterans: I’ve read a lot of the customer reviews posted for both the print and audio editions of this title. A lot of Vietnam veterans seem to love this book, clearly believing their story has finally been told. This book is fiction; but clearly it’s “true.” Without having read the reviews though, you would know it. There is an honesty in the writing that comes through.
  • For everyone else: There’s a old adage about not judging a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes. This book forces you to hump 6 clicks in a Marine’s boots. This book does what the very best of books do: enables the reader to see another point of view. There’s a great scene in the book wherein Jackson, a black Lance Corporal explains to Mellas, a white Second Lieutenant, that he (Jackson) could no more explain what it’s like to be black to Mellas than either of them could explain what its like to be in the bush to civilians. The irony is of course, is that Marlantes has explained what’s its like to be in the bush. Readers/listeners will feel like they were with Bravo Company every step of the way.
I never know which books are going to deeply resonate with me and when they do I really don’t know why. I’m a middle-aged overweight mother in the the Northwest. I have had no military experience and no one in my family served (my father’s experiences in WWII are a different kind of story.) Anyway, Matterhorn really affected me. The first night after I had started listening to the audio, I woke up in the middle of the night, more than a little panicky, slightly sweating and attacking the leech on my leg. OK, it was really a Band-Aid, but it never knew what hit it!
 
After finishing this audiobook, I spent a week still “in the bush” and another week trying to find another audiobook to listen to (after you listen to something this amazing, everything else sounds like dreck!)
 
Highly recommend to absolutely everyone.