The Alice Behind Wonderland

The Alice Behind Wonderland
by Simon Winchester
narrated by Simon Winchester
Harper Audio, Inc.

2.7 hours

The photograph that graces the cover of The Alice Behind Wonderland (and which is described in the text) is the catalyst into Simon Winchester’s explication of Dodgson as the photographer, erstwhile academe and poet who would find his greatest success as the writer of the enthralling tale about an English girl who falls down a rabbit hole. Familial, educational and religious influences are noted, as well as his relationship with the Lidells; but oddly, Dodgson’s work as a mathematician, inventor and creator of word games – all of which are evidenced in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, are omitted. Also curious is the overall subject matter of the book for, The Alice Behind Wonderland is a brief biographical sketch of Charles Dodgson (a.k.a. Lewis Carroll,) not of Alice Lidell, the muse of Caroll’s Classic nonsense tale. In addition to speculating on Dodgson’s probable influences on the creation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Winchester also devotes passages in refuting the never-proven idea that Dodgson was a pedophile. Winchester contradicts the argument, as most notably put forth in Karoline Leach’s In the Shadow of the Dreamchild, with a cultural explanation as to the high number of children-as-subject-matter of Dodgson’s photographs, as well as the fact that simply, no evidence exists to support Ms Leach’s claim. Far from being boring enough to dry you off from an unexpected swim in a puddle of your own tears, The Alice Behind Wonderland is an interesting profile of the man behind Lewis Carroll.

The material is narrated by the author himself in a clear, easy-to-understand British accent. The audio brings to mind a favored college lecturer who would entertain as well as enlighten.

Other stuff: I received a dnload copy of The Alice Behind Wonderland upon request from Harper Audio. Every month, their publicist sends out an e-mail highlighting their current offering for reviewers’ consideration.

Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?

Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?

by Steven Tyler with David Dalton
narrated by Jeremy Davidson
13.0 hours

If you’ve ever been caught singing “Dream On” while strumming on an air guitar and listening to your Walkman…; If you were one of those staring in hurt bewilderment at a Joe Perry Project logo stenciled into the sidewalk outside of the Narcissus nightclub in Boston…; If your heart soared at the sight of a flying piano… Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? is for you!

Ostensibly the memoir of Aerosmith’s lead singer, Steven Tyler, there is no denying that it has to be a history of the band as well if only because Steven Tyler has been the lead singer for over two-thirds of his life. Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? is a recounting of a life of seeming cliche: drugs, sex and rock ‘n’ roll; but it is much more because it is the story of an icon who helped forge the cliche into the consciousness of every burgeoning American adolescent mind. The excesses described are not for the prudish. Hardly an apologia, Steve Tyler describes his rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle and the circuitous route to the man he is today. It’s a fascinating look into Steven Tyler’s mind, like dipping your toe into a stream of unconsciousness.
Jeremy Davidson does a remarkable job, for all that he is not Steven Tyler, of narrating this memoir. While purists may prefer authors to narrate their autobiographies, the choice of Jeremy Davidson is a solid one. Mr. Davidson has a more distinctive New York (?) accent than Steven Tyler, but the spirit of Steven Tyler’s oral history is so strong, the free-form scat so distinctive, that the listener can hear Steven Tyler through Jeremy Davidson. Jeremy Davidson speaks clearly, attentively and, does not get in the way of the text.
There is a bit at the end if the book in which Steven Tyler talks about the book itself. While superficially seeming to be a free-associative ramble, the monologue is actually structured to highlight the key themes of the book. It also inadvertently gives props to David Dalton for organizing Steven Tyler’s story into the book and, to Jeremy Davidson’s clear rendition of the same text. Early in the listening experience of the memoir itself, one might think that Steven Tyler’s words were tempered by either/both David Dalton and Jeremy Davidson; but it becomes clear in the monologue that both men served the text well and were about as transparent in delivering their respective trade crafts as you could want. Steven Tyler might have brought in some added value as the narrator of his own memoir, but while he could probably have gotten away with singing the lyrics embedded in the text; he wouldn’t have been singing the whole text, i.e. Steven Tyler is a singer, not a narrator. His distinctively raspy voice and verbal pauses might not have worn well over the thirteen hours. It’s also had to imagine him being tethered to his own text, even if he did write it himself!
Other Stuff: I received a review copy of Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? upon request from Harper Audio, Inc.