Another Column at MyShelf.Com

Audio Buzz, Past
Audio Book News
By Jonathan Lowe

December 2009

by Jonathan Lowe

Is it fair to call the Dalai Lama a wise guy? He certainly doesn't seem like a holy man, although that is what he's considered to the people of Tibet. To us in the West, he's the closest thing we have to the proverbial wise-man-on-the-mountain, although he's now in exile in India. In his new book THE ART OF HAPPINESS IN A TROUBLED WORLD, written with Dr. Howard C. Cutler, who interviews him and supplies both context and commentary, the Dalai Lama discusses in depth the philosophy and science of achieving peace of mind, using anecdotal examples to illustrate his points. What is happiness, and how can we overcome the "us" versus "them" conditioning that we use to separate each other into stereotypes to foster racism and aggression? There are logical answers here that are as simple and beautiful as Einstein's equation E=MC². That they come from the mouth of the Dalai Lama, through the voice of narrator Marc Cashman, seems both appropriate and ironic in that, while the message is down to earth and filled with compassion evoking equality, it comes from a man usually addressed as "His Holiness." (Random House Audio; 14 hours unabridged)
Is it right that a person should complain when required to pay taxes on part of their income after having their yacht taken away, and after living in luxury for almost one hundred years at taxpayer expense? No, you might agree, it's not right. And so Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon did not complain, nor did her daughter. She merely ordered another drink. A martini. As THE QUEEN MOTHER, officially chronicled by William Shawcross, Elizabeth enjoyed an idyllic childhood, a very long life, the admiration of her subjects, plus she got to wear the Crown Jewels to state functions and endless appearances, parties, and celebrations. Even her daughter's Golden Jubilee was an unmatched procession of floats, bands, and aircraft at which Donald Trump might have salivated. As read by the author, a famous BBC broadcaster, (along with Sophie Roberts, who supplies quotes or passages in the Queen Mother's voice), this biography not only recounts the splendor of being royalty (a fading anachronism in our modern age), but also tells Elizabeth's personal story, including her refusal to take refuge during the bombing of London, and her disinclination to comment on various later scandals. That she loved the military, horse racing, and music is quite obvious in this extensive and approved biography, and Shawcross maintains an almost regal English viewpoint throughout, his tone only changing when describing the horrors of WWII, and the Crown's reaction to it. Unlike pop stars of today, who are our only royalty, Elizabeth did not comport herself inappropriately, but led a full yet discreet life as the embodiment of her country. Knowing her role well, she also passed that knowledge on to her daughter, although whether it will continue is anyone's guess. Shawcross has obvious affection for the subject, as he has written extensively about the Royal Family in the past, and his natural British accent also bears the seal of Royal approval, being the genuine article. (Random House Audio; 10 hours unabridged)
Next, that aging hippie and comedian by the name of George Carlin is gone now (he died in June 2008), but his legacy and history remain to be plumbed in LAST WORDS, a new biography written with friend Tony Hendra (a British comedian and author). Narrated with similar gruff gusto by his brother Patrick Carlin, the audiobook recalls George's very earliest memories on the streets of New York, and includes his days on the road in various clubs from Dayton to Hollywood, his battles with censorship, his unusual meeting and marriage to his wife Brenda, her succumbing to cancer, his drug use, and his search for a new voice, after being associated as much with the 70s as platform shoes and disco. Carlin's subject matter moved from the typical to the political in the 1980s and 1990s, when he appeared often on The Tonight Show, HBO, and SNL, culminating in his 2001 Grammy win for Brain Droppings, and he also loved to play with words and ideas, with zero respect for anyone or any institution. Carlin was also hard on himself, and sadly, some of this book relates to his hopes to continue doing standup into the future, which was not to be. Patrick Carlin sounds a lot like George, both in voice and in mindset, and no one could have related George's thoughts and words better. The audiobook also features opening commentary with Tony Hendra and Kelly Carlin-McCall about her father. (Simon & Schuster Audio; 6 hours abridged)
Finally, while it might be difficult to sort out all the characters in a P.G. Wodehouse tale, the attempt is a genuine pleasure, given the masterful interpretations of narrator Martin Jarvis. In SUMMER LIGHTNING the ninth Earl of Emsworth fears his prize pig with be snatched by Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe, while Parsloe fears Clarence's debauched brother Gally will publish scandalous memoirs implicating him. Set in a castle, there is a butler named Beach, a romance involving Clarence's niece Millicent, along with some private eye detecting regarding the thefts, and patently absurd dialogue from a great British humorist, all brought to amazing life by the inimitable skill of stage and screen actor Jarvis. How does Martin do it, knowing instantly the correct inflection, tone, voice, and mental states of a dozen very, very quirky characters? We'll have to ask him, won't we? (CSA Word; 5 hours unabridged)

(For interviews with audiobook narrators, visit Jonathan's blog at

2009 Past Columns

© MyShelf.Com. All Rights Reserved.