Some Things I’m Currently Loving… The Audiobook of Lush Life by Richard Price

Buy it at Audible.com

Buy it at Audible.com

After succumbing one too many times to reading-induced nausea caused by the jaunty trek over Seattle’s lovingly unmaintained streets on the #18 express—that, and the realization that my eyes are shot after years of abuse—I decided to give Audible.com a whirl.  I’ve never been much of an auditory learner.  My listening/hearing skills are for shit.  I usually forget a person’s name immediately after an introduction.  I never remember song lyrics.  And don’t even bother reciting a phone number to me.  It ain’t happening.  So I wasn’t sure how my initial audiobook experiences would go.

My first selection was Dune by Frank Herbert, which soon became a tedious ordeal, in part because I didn’t care for the story whatsoever, despite its status as a sci-fi classic, and because the British narrator’s refined elocution put me straight to sleep.  I had to continually skip back and re-listen to entire chapters to make sense of the story.  My second selection was Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, which went a little better.  The novel was chock full of eccentric Swedes, serial murder, ex-Nazis, and sex.  It was clipping along as an ideal crime/mystery/thriller should, until it came to the hour-and-a-half long denouement.  I also unwittingly picked the very same British narrator.  So instead of seeing a movie in my head, I saw a dour Englishman sitting in the library by the fire, reading to me from a leather bound tome. Night-y nite.

Now I’m onto something.  After seeing Lush Life live in my Amazon.com recommendations for months and hearing an interview with Richard Price on Fresh Air, I decided to give audiobooks one more try. I’m glad I did.  I was searching for a “movie in my head” experience and I found it.  If you’ve ever seen the movie, Clockers, or are a fan of The Wire, then you’re familiar with Richard Price’s work.  Lush Life brilliantly depicts the story of a shooting that takes place in Manhattan’s lower east side, a seemingly straight forward case that quickly, and unexpectedly, gets very complicated.  Shifting from various points of view–from detectives, to eyewitnesses, to suspects, to victims—Price paints an intricate mosaic that captures the complexities of the case and of the neighborhood that is as much a part of the story as the characters.  But the main reason I’m loving this audiobook is the narration by Bobby Cannavale, whose throaty baritone drips with authenticity–from the street-slang of the projects to the gritty patois of police procedure–providing the ideal complement to Price’s pitch-perfect dialogue.

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Hiatus Explained

New baby. New job. New city. ‘Nuff said. At least now the books are free, so we have that going for us, which is nice.

Some Things I’m Currently Loving… The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

Buy it at Amazon.com

Just started The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen last night.  After a tepid few weeks of reading, this one’s turning into a real treat.  It took a while for me to settle into Franzen’s prose, but now I’m loving it.

The opening description of the Enid and Al Lambert’s home in “St. Jude” reads awkwardly, but I think — after the fact — it is purposefully written as such to capture the stagnant yet precarious nature of the household.  It takes a few pages to accept the “guerilla warfare” metaphor used to describe Enid’s silent battle to keep the household finances out-of-site from an excitable and semi-lucid Al, but ultimately it works.

Things really start popping in “The Failure,” when we meet Chip, the Lambert’s 43-year-old disaster of a son, a disgraced former liberal arts professor, now scraping by as a writer in New York City.  Chip’s flashback, reliving his comic tryst with a seductive undergrad, Melissa, and subsequent flameout at D—— College, is one of the most hilariously sharp set pieces I’ve read in a long time.  Franzen is rolling during this section and having a blast while at it.

Some of my favorite lines thus far:

It’s the fate of most Ping-Pong tables in home basements eventually to serve the ends of other, more desperate games. (p. 7)

The space between Al’s “I am-” and “packing my suitcase,” (p. 11) is a wonderfully flashy digression.

“They’re leather.  They’re like a second skin.” (p. 18)

Did you grow up here?” (Or do you come from a trans-Appalachian state where people are warmhearted and down-to-earth and unlikely to be Jewish) (p. 23)

Soft curves in thermal knitwear spilled out on either side of her overalls’ bib, Chip noticed.  (p. 49)

The VCR made a dry, thin choking sound.  Air; need air, it seemed to say. (p.51)

… each image recalled him to the unfunny raw comedy of what he’d done to her.  The jismic grunting butt-oink.  The jiggling frantic nut-swing.  (p. 58)

The last one’s my favorite so far.  More to come.