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Audio Book News
By Jonathan Lowe

March 2011

by Jonathan Lowe

Joel Silver has produced "Out of My Head" by Didier Van Cauwelaert as the suspense movie (and retitled audiobook) UNKNOWN starring Liam Neeson, in which Martin Harris returns home after a coma to discover that no one--not even his wife---knows who he is. In our age of identity theft, this short novel has a dramatic, intelligent twist ending that explains most of the mystery, while audiobook narrator Bronson Pinchot is also a talented screen/stage actor and Renaissance man, here with a subtlety of tone while nailing the accents. Footnote: Bronson once appeared in the Stephen King TV movie The Langoliers.

We live in a youth obsessed culture that refuses to accept growing older (much less to think about "end of life" issues), and yet not only are more people entering retirement than ever, but the number of commercials advertising "age-defying" products are increasing. Yet just how likely is it that old age will find you "active and healthy?" Susan Jacoby explores the subject in NEVER SAY DIE, read on audio by veteran narrator Laural Merlington. Just as Barbara Ehrenreich covered the hucksters of the positive thinking industry in "Bright Sided," and Laurie Essig tackled the relentless advertisers of credit and cosmetic surgery in "American Plastic," Jacoby takes on the promoters of longevity for profit. People, she reminds listeners, have a life cycle, and it cannot be denied or prevented. Thinking that your life at 80 can be "the new 60" is a myth, since from age 65 onward your chances of getting Alzheimer's goes up by 20% per year, along with cancers and other diseases. Arthritis is common among the elderly, and diabetes is epidemic among the poorer of the population. There is no fountain of youth, says Jacoby, and despite claims by pseudo-scientists, it is unlikely that a pill will be developed anytime soon to "cure" aging. What she recommends is a realistic reassessment. This will enable you to make realistic (and more ethical) choices, rather than to rely on "hucksters and wishful thinkers." Of course that doesn't mean you should plop down in front of a television with a 64 oz. soda and super-sized fries while you plan, either. Lifestyle plays its role in how quickly one becomes susceptible to diseases.

When you're a movie star, you generally don't have to pay for anything. . . restaurant tabs, travel, drinks, wardrobe. But even the luckiest of leading men don't generally last 50 years in the industry, enough to go through two careers. Michael Caine did, although he describes himself as an "actor," not a "movie star." Movie stars generally don't have to act, he says, and get scripts rewritten for them, while real actors change themselves to fit the roles. The "Elephant" in the title THE ELEPHANT TO HOLLYWOOD refers to a poor section of London where Caine was raised. This entertaining memoir, narrated by Caine himself, delves through his long career to relive highlights and insider sidelights, the kind of things that don't make Entertainment Tonight because there isn't time. One of many things Caine talks about in the book is living in Miami Beach, along with Jack Nicholson, and opening a restaurant there. He describes visiting the club Liquid that Madonna frequented, and seeing some of the shady "investors" which later proved to be organized crime as the owner was convicted. His performance on the audiobook is familiar and conversational, with occasional laughter as he reacts to his own words.

One reason why movie stars like their privacy is because the public generally doesn't really know them, only their visible persona. And now Bernard Comment (yes, that's his name) has edited Marilyn Monroe's poems, intimate notes and letters into FRAGMENTS, narrated by Isabel Keating, which is an indirect way of revealing Marilyn's true character. She was brave, sensitive, and yet critical (particularly of herself and her own thoughts and emotions). . . a free spirit who just wanted to enjoy her life. As organized as such scribblings can be, (some thoughts were recorded on hotel stationery), the book is affecting, and will definitely underline the fact that what people thought of her and who she really was appear to be entirely different. The narrator sounds a bit like Marilyn herself, with the same spontaneous and airy delivery.

Finally, L.A. Theatre Works has released THE NEIL SIMON COLLECTION, which includes ten plays by the comic master, including Barefoot in the Park, Plaza Suite, California Suite, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Broadway Bound, The Odd Couple, The Prisoner of Second Avenue, Chapter Two, Biloxi Blues, and Lost in Yonkers. The 20 compact audio disks of full-cast-and-sound productions include the talents of Laura Linney, Richard Dreyfuss, Marsha Mason, Jonathan Silverman, Nathan Lane, Sharon Gless, Justine Bateman, Barbara Bain, Amy Irving, and many others. A zillion laughs in one collection, fully dramatized with sound effects.

2011 Past Columns