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Check It Out

Courier Articles by Sandy Schultheis
Sunday, September 26, 1999

On the Road With New Audiobooks

In the past six months I've made several long road trips, one to Georgia and one to Alabama and since I also listen to books to and from work, I've gone through a number of titles which I review today. All are available through your public library and will be good listening on your fall vacation. Many books are also now available unabridged on CD as well as cassette. Next Sunday Central Library will be having an interesting program on the making of an audio book, see sidebar for details.

On The Road by Jack Kerouac (Recorded Books, 1999).

When I was in high school this was a hot title, but listening to Frank Muller's superb performance was a great experience and much more enjoyable than that long ago reading. Muller really captures the mood of this classic of the Beat Generation. He gives an especially fine interpretation of Dean Moriarty-- the manic character based on Kerouac's pal Neal Cassady. Some books are just better as spoken performances, and I think this is one of them. I was inspired to do a bit more research into Kerouac's life and learn who all the fictional characters in On The Road really were in real life. William Burroughs, Allen Ginsburg and Gary Snyder are some of the big names who were fellow travelers. Unabridged, 11 ¼ hours. If you enjoy the Beats you will also want to check out our video What Happened to Kerouac which features old television footage of Kerouac and Bill Buckley among others, and priceless commentaries by poet Gregory Corso.

Be Cool by Elmore Leonard (Recorded Books, 1999).

Chili Palmer is back after his debut in Get Shorty. This time, he stumbles into the music business, tangling with mobsters, rappers, two-bit promoters, and a feisty singer named Linda Moon. Along the way he manipulates events to watch them play out in this sequel about sequels. Available on cassette and also on CD. Unabridged, 8 hours.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (Brilliance, 1998).

At 546 pages, this book was way too long for me, so I tried the audiobook and found it entertaining over several weeks. I still wouldn't read this book and I warn you that the last third gets preachy. But this tale of a missionary family in the Congo in the sixties told from the point of view of the mother and her four daughters is well worth the time to listen if you are on a long trip or, like me, someone who needs to be read to in order to fall asleep. Unabridged, 16 hours.

Kaaterskill Falls
by Alegra Goodman (Recorded Books, 1999).

Skillfully read by Suzanne Toren, this study of life in the summer resort of an Orthodox Jewish commujnity intertwines the stories of three families pulled between religious tradition and the secular world. Goodman, who grew up in Hawaii, spent her summers in a similar town visiting relatives when she was a child. In an interviewat the end of the tape she talks about her background and writing experience. Unabridged, 12 ½ hours.

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg (Sounds True, 1999).

A combination of Zen wisdom and down-to-earth advice about writing. The book, subtitled "freeing the writer within" came out in 1986. In this 12th year anniversary edition the author reads and then reflects on what she wrote at age 36 from her perspective at 50. Goldberg is a warm, honest, straightforward person whose advice on writing practice can be applied to other areas of life as well. I recommended the tape to a friend who reported she was entertained and fascinated even though she is not an aspiring writer. Unabridged. 9 hours..

Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud (Audio Partners, 1999).

No sex to speak of in this tale of a five year old girl and her sister who travel to Morocco with their free-spirited mother in the mid-60s. Though too sophisticated and complex to be the thoughts and words of such a young child this book starts out light and entertaining and becomes darker and more problematical as it progresses. This abridged book left me feeling that I had missed out on some essential information but I was entertained. Will look for the video starring Kate Winslet sometime in the future. Abridged. 3 hours.

Sandy Schultheis is a librarian with the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of EVPL.