Last time I wrote about audiobooks, I was in the middle of listening to Jennifer Egan’s The Keep. Well, now I’ve finished it, and I have to say I wasn’t all that terribly impressed. The story never quite came together for me; I never really came to care about the characters all that much. And then there was a strange shift in narrators near the end, along with a new reader, so I felt like I was listening to a completely new book and it was jarring. The thing is, on the back of the CD case were pictured two readers, a man and a woman, so I knew another reader would be coming along at some point, but since it didn’t happen until near the end of the novel, I spent quite a long time wondering when the reader would shift. I found it irritating. This is not the fault of the book, of course, just some unfortunate circumstances that kept me from giving it a fair chance, I suppose.
The novel is about two stories that intertwine; one is about Danny, a tough, New York City guy who gets into some trouble and so jumps at the opportunity to go visit his cousin in Europe. This cousin owns and is renovating a castle somewhere on Germany’s border. The other story is about Ray, a guy in prison who is taking a writing class and is falling in love with his instructor. I liked the beginning of the novel, which has a harrowing scene from Danny’s childhood where he and some friends abandon his cousin in a cave, but the rest of the novel doesn’t live up to this beginning. It’s got some odd, fantastical, magic-realism elements to it that I didn’t really get the point of and I wasn’t all that interested in the novel’s ideas. It’s a reworking of the gothic, with the castle and some mystery and a frightening Baroness, but Egan didn’t convince me that there was a larger point to this reworking, besides the chance to have some fun writing about Baronesses and castles.
But I’m now listening to Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love, and so far I’m liking it much better. This book also has multiple narrators and multiple readers, but it’s got more of a regular pattern to it, which works just fine. The only problem is that one of the CDs is damaged; I’m having to miss maybe 5-10 minutes of the story. I’m liking the book enough I considered buying a paper copy and reading it the regular way, but not having been at a bookstore lately, I haven’t had the chance. We’ll see if I can piece together the story.
I liked the first narrator very much; he’s Leo Gursky, an old man living in New York City, who has only one friend, Bruno, and who is lonely. Leo and Bruno check every day to make sure the other person is still alive. Leo feels so isolated he goes about the city making scenes and being difficult to make sure that people notice him. He doesn’t want to die on a day nobody has seen him. He is so desperate to be seen, he volunteers to be a nude model in a drawing class; he is happy to think that people will be staring at him for hours and creating images of his body. Leo has a wonderfully humorous voice, and the man who reads this section does a wonderful job. After Leo, the book shifts to Alma, a young girl who is trying to find a boyfriend for her depressed mother. We shall see where this book takes me …
14 responses to “My latest audiobooks”
I’m sorry “The Keep” was disappointing, but you’re not the first blogger I’ve seen who wasn’t impressed with it. I might still read it, if I can keep my expectations low. A lot of people seem to think it’s over-rated.
I didn’t care for The Keep. At all. Funny, though, I don’t remember many bloggers discussing it, but I know I heard hype somewhere.
I read ‘The History of Love’ a few months ago after thoroughly enjoying the excerpt of it that ran in the New Yorker last year sometime. I definitely enjoyed Leo, he’s just wonderful. I can’t wait to hear what else you have to say about it. Interestingly, I found THOL very similar to Jonathan Safran Foer’s book ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ which bears some more thought because Foer and Krauss are married!
p.s. think this might be the first comment I’ve left – just wanted to say how much I enjoy your blog!
I SO keep meaning to read The History of Love. Thank you for encouraging me to get around to it!
I’ve heard/read so many good things about The History of Love and now your interesting comments have decided me to go out and buy the book and try it for myself.
I had been mulling over choosing The Keep for Carl’s 2007 RIP Challenge because of the gothic elements and because Egan got a great write up in Poets and Writers. But I’ve heard so many so-so reviews from readers and now yours, that I think I might just skip it. History of Love on the other hand sounds like it’s a good one.
So glad you are enjoying History of Love. I thought it was a wonderful book. I would be curious to “hear” it though with the multiple narrators. That sounds kind of fun. I’ve yet to give audio books a try.
That’s the thing with audio books for me–if the reader irritates me in any way it sort of ruins the book. I’m not sure if I would like the anticipation of a different reader. I have heard so-so things about the Keep as well. I do have History of Love, though, and am looking forward to reading it. I have heard good things about it! Hope your audio doesn’t have more defects!
I actually really liked The Keep although, I felt the ending was a bit muddy.
Listening to The History of Love on AB,….GOOD IDEA!
I thought ‘A History of Love’ was incredible – there are some beautiful passages. I wrote more about it back when it was on the Orange shortlist I think: http://evesalexandria.typepad.com/eves_alexandria/2006/06/tap_once_for_no.html
I wasn’t keen when I started it, mostly because it had been recommended by the King and Queen of the Blockbuster, ‘Richard and Judy’ (the British version of Oprah’s book club?). But I was proved wrong. Tis a very moving novel.
Don’t you hate it when the CDs don’t work? I got halfway through A Thousand Acres, and then the whole thing went caput. Went back to the library and got the cassette. Wouldn’t you know? THAT didn’t work either! Ended up reading the rest of it, but not without wanting to throw things across the room (but, you know, it was library property).
The History of Love really sounds intriguing.
Brandon — the nice thing about audiobooks is that I don’t feel I’ve wasted my time on a book I don’t like — I have to be in the car no matter what, after all, which is where I listen to them. So I’m more likely to take risks. And who knows, when you read it (if you do), you might like it.
Jenclair — I remember you saying that — and yeah, I’m not sure where I heard positive things about the book either — strange. I must have heard recommendations from somewhere.
Thank you Verbivore! I love Leo too, and the guy who reads his part of the book has a great voice and accent. He’s wonderful to listen to.
Litlove, I suspect you’ll like it (I hope so!). Del, I hope you like it too!
Stefanie, who knows, you might really like it. But there are probably better choices for the RIP challenge (in my opinion).
Iliana, I like audiobooks on my commute — I get tired of listening to NPR all the time. Without the commute, I wouldn’t listen to them though — I don’t like just sitting around and listening to something. The car’s perfect.
Danielle, so far so good with the rest of the CDs. Yeah, the narrator is so important, I agree.
Sherid — yay, a defender of the book! Now I don’t feel like we’re ganging up on Egan here.
Victoria, I checked out your post — great reading (and you helped me figure out some of the plot I missed because of the damaged CD). It’s nice to be proven wrong in that way, isn’t it?
Emily, I had such bad luck with tapes back when I had a tape player to listen to them on. It’s terrible when tapes or CDs don’t work — you lose the story!
I really enjoyed “The History of Love”. It is definitely worth buying a copy. I like to have copies of books on hand that I’ve listened to on CD. I think you can get a whole different perspective by reading the book – picking up things you might miss while listening.
This has been on my TBR list forever…perhaps time to locate a copy!