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Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

I’ve heard great deal about Crime and Punishment through my years, and haven’t had any exposure to Russian Literature so I thought I would pick it up and work my way through it.  When listening to Wolf Hall a friend confessed he couldn’t finish it and compared it to Crime in Punishment as another of those lengthy tomes that is nearly impossible to complete.  In May I finished A Tale of Two Cities and the preface cited Crime and Punishment so I thought fate was throwing the book in my path.

The story is bleak, no surprise.  The characters are complex, no surprise.  But the style is the tricky part.  It’s a little like stream of consciousness which I find impossible to read and hard to follow as an audio book.  My plan is to listen to one disc a night.  Just one.  I’m on disc eight.  That way I follow the story for a short time and don’t feel like I’m going to explode in misery from the desperate storyline or the rambling.

In the meantime I’m listening to a story taking place in Turkey, a little on the wretched side of life, and two other history books on the Age of Napoleon and the History of World Trade.  None of them make me want to rush back to Crime and Punishment, or completely ignore it either.  I think it’s a good plan.

Thank God for the Danes – that was a welcomed shift in subject matter.

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Post Number 200

Yes, that’s right, this is my 200th post.  I started three blogs before keeping this one going – and as a rule I don’t start things and leave them unfinished – but the world of internet applications is sketchy.  I had a myspace account.  I had an online to do list.  I had a web gallery.  But those tools quickly outlived their usefulness so I abandoned them.  I think there must be an internet graveyard for all these social network fads but I’m proud to say that I’ve been dedicated to this blog and it has helped me keep my interests updated, concise and obvious to me if not to readers.

So in honor of this little achievement of mine, I have compiled a photo of the best audio books I’ve come across.  Here is to the good ones.  May there be many more!

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I attended a presentation and book signing last night with author, Anita Diamant.  She is the creator of  The Red Tent, Good Harbor (I am currently listening to it), The Last Days of Dogtown and her newest novel Day After Night.  When I have the chance to meet authors in person I am always eager to hear the texture and tone of the creator’s own voice, as usually I’ve heard what they write through a narrator’s interpretation or my own vision for the “voice” of the novel.  Diamant has a very soft warm voice that I’m sure would have been pure honey as a reader for The Red Tent, my favorite of her work. Opening the evening Anita Diamant spoke about her work as a journalist and non-fiction writer before she began her work as a novelist.   Her life as a non-practicing Jew changed a great deal when she got married and began writing books about the experiences as someone new to her faith.  As a daughter of Holocaust survivors she explained that her parents (and other survivors) didn’t feel that religion contributed solace toward these events and didn’t embrace faith afterwords.  The non-fiction work lead to her engagement in the story of Jacob’s two wives, Rachel and Leah.

A few comments from the presentation that I would like to share revolve around friendship and redemption.  “Women’s friendships keep the world from falling apart”  Diamant affirmed and her books are very reflective of friendship. Readers of The Red Tent will attest that though Rachel and Leah are sisters, there is a strong bond of friendship.  Good Harbor, and Day After Night are also studies in friendship.  Diamant noted that the world is need of redemption in addition to friendship.  She explained that 20 years ago she watched Nelson Mandela being released from prison with her 4 year old daughter.  It was a moment that was “good for the soul of the world” after all of the years on injustice.  Day After Night seems to be written as a story of redemption.  “As bad as the night is” she states “there is always morning”.  Inspiration came to Diamant after visiting an detainment camp in Israel and learning of the conditions and procedures detainees endured.  “Holocaust literature eclipses the war experiences” and this book is a different account of those war experiences, an extension really.  Her new novel is about four friends settled at Atlit, a detainment camp for those flooding Palestine after the war in which over 100 detainees escaped without incident or casualty.

When asked if she would write again a novel set in Biblical times, or a sequel to The Red Tent she answer she would not, “and you wouldn’t like it if I did”.  She explained that writing her first novel after years of columns, essays and non fiction was a beginning for her.  “I become a beginner each time I write a novel”.   So for those like myself (who adored the complex story of women in the ancient world with authentic and natural voices) will have to search elsewhere.  When told of a local book club that began with the discussion of The Red Tent and celebrated this their 10th year with Day After Night, Diamant exclaimed “there is something so pure about book group[s]”  publishers cannot buy the success of a book discussion for their products.  That’s high praise for those of us who attend (or in my case, the daughter and sister of librarians) live life as daily book club.

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Performances of the Year

HAPPY NEW YEAR to you dear readers and listners!

As I’ve already rated each title throughout the year I see no reason to compile a list of my favorites.    While I list the books by title and reader, in the end I evaluate the elements of the book’s literary elements alone without considerations for the strength of the narrator.  So it seems fitting that I wrap up with a list of the best performances of the past year irrespective of literary elements.

First I would like to add an honorable mention to narrator Laura Hicks of One Thousand White Woman: the Journals of May Dodd.  The novel of white women traded from prisons and mental institutions to Cheyenne Indians as wives was horrible.  The mess of characters and overused stereotypes of Native Americans rendered it too dismal to finish.  However, Laura Hicks got me half way through the novel.  Not only did she deliver an impressive array of accents, she also imbued each character with identity through slight and precise changes in  tone.   I look forward to her future performances.

2009 Performances of the Year

10. Christine Williams: Emily Post
9. Jenny Sterlin: Locked Rooms
8. Susan Ericksen: Garden Spells
7. Virginia Leishman & Emily Gray: A Second Legacy
6. Jeff Woodman & Alexander Marshall: The Life of Pi
5. Juliet Mills: The Sister
4. John Lee & Cassandra Campbell: Blindspot
3. Bianca Amato: Her Fearful Symmetry
2. Rosalyn Landor: The Minotaur
1. Rosamund Pike: Restless

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