Monday, January 01, 2007

Ricky Gervais Made Me Weep, Stephen King Warms My Heart, Poorly Done Vampire Novels are Crap.

Convalescing recently has given me the opportunity to get through a lot of audiobooks so I have some observations for you:

Want a great example of why audio is sometimes the way to go? Try:

Born to Kvetch by Michael Wex

It's a book about the Yiddish language primarily and it's quite scholarly. Learning about the language requires learning about everyday Jewish life and Jewish customs so it's very educational beyond the linguistics. But beyond even this is the fact that's it's funny as hell. For instance he explains why someone might refer to himself as a schmuck but never as a putz, although at a basic level they are both slang for the same thing. He's not afraid to use equally vulgar English phrases in comparison either. It's not just a naughty book but if you like that kind of thing, it's in there too.

Audio is the only way to learn about a language – you must hear it spoken to understand how it flows.

How about some comedy?

Larry Miller's Spoiled Rotten America is a great book. Miller's observations are mostly standard quality comedy but some little things in here are great. I won't ruin it for you though. He does explain how we can fix The Godfather III though, which is priceless.

Next up is Little Children by Tom Perrotta. This starts out a little like a Lifetime movie but soon turns into something deeper. Not much deeper but it's a good listen. Plus the upcoming movie has a great cast: Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connelly, and a grown up and creepy Jackie "Bad News Bears" Earle Haley.

Now let's talk about a book to avoid:

Undead and Unappreciated by Mary Janice Davidson. We can credit Davidson for some spectacularly bad writing and Nancy Wu for capturing it in her annoying performance. It’s not even Wu's fault. The main character is a newly turned vampire queen named Betsy. Even the completely unnecessary sex scene is poorly done. I'm rating this one: crap on a stick.

Another to take a pass on but for different reasons is Blood Hunt by Ian Rankin.
Sometimes when good writers write under pseudonyms, they should let the secret stay a secret. I only bought this book because Rankin wrote it but this is a sorry knock-off of First Blood. David Morrell is not as good a writer but tells a better story than this. Sorry Ian, the next time I'm up for a good Scottish thriller, I'll pick up a Val McDermid or a Denise Mina book instead.

Next onto historical fiction: The Last King of Scotland by Giles Foden is interesting but about 3 hours too long. I'm still interested in seeing the movie with Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin, though. I'd say wait for the movie.

The best fiction I've listened to in some time has got to be Hearts In Atlantis by Stephen King read by William Hurt. Stephen King is a great storyteller and can always draw me in. I'm still listening to this one but I am enjoying every word.

Also good is Nature Girl by Carl Hiaasen. Hiaasen is always a good read and this is no exception. If you've never read him before, also check out: Double Whammy, Skin Tight, Lucky You, Sick Puppy, and Tourist Season… among others.

The best surprise I've had in audio is the Ricky Gervais show. has it and I gather it's on iTunes too. It's hil-arious. At first I wasn't sure I'd like it because the gist of the show is that Ricky and his friend Steve pick on their producer Karl Pilkington. But Karl's observations are so… well: idiot/genius. I almost never laugh out loud at any comedy under any setting but I was laughing so hard I was in tears. I cannot listen to this in bed because Kelli thinks I'm having a seizure.


John Cowart said...

Hi Eric,

Glad you are feeling well enough to listen to those audiobooks.

Carl Hiaasen is one of my favorites too. I read his Nature Girl last month and wrote about something I learned from it back on December 14th.

I hope you continue to improve and thrive.

Charred said...

For vampire novels, you want P.N. Elrod.