AUDIO BOOK REVIEWS
by Jonathan Lowe
| If you're
flummoxed about how the state of affairs in the Middle East
came about, with religious wars threatening to erupt (again)
over Israel's very existence, (and with America mired in unwinnable
battles in the region costing $300 Million per day), you might
step back in time with James Carroll as he explains the big
picture, tracing the history of religion and violence, including
how it has polarized everyone to take sides. Carroll's broad
thesis is that religion and violence have always been closely
tied together, with the implication that faith which rejects
the material world encourages an unfortunate interpretation
of scriptures. Columbus carried a Catholic worldview to America,
and that worldview all began with the struggle of Israel for
survival, and its identification with the most important city
in the world: JERUSALEM,
JERUSALEM is read by Mel Foster, but
rather than focusing on the city itself the book approaches
the subject of religion's focus on violence from all angles
in a comprehensive, analytical, and intriguing look at why
blood-based sacrifices offered to God create meaning for believers,
and how resistance to Roman violence influenced Biblical texts
and formulated Jewish attitudes toward the world, (which in
turn influences us as well). A perfect storm continues to
brew around the Temple mount in Jerusalem, which is perceived
by both Jews and Arabs as ground zero (despite our fixation
on the less important one in New York City.) It is from this
point that the world has turned since ancient times, and which
also turned it more recently to the brink of nuclear holocaust
during the Nixon debacle. Will it happen again, since Islam
also views Jews the way Hitler did, once Iran gets the bomb?
The author expresses a hope that believers of all monotheistic
religions view "one God" not as a numeral 1 in opposition
to perceived infidels, but as "God is one," meaning
"in harmony with" rather than "at war with."
Otherwise, says Carroll, the human race is doomed.
As a genre, romance has tended to fluctuate between the
sappy and steamy, taking stock characters on a predictable
roller coaster ride that ends with either a wedding or some
twist on revenge. In recent years, romance has strayed into
mystery and suspense in a crossover attempt to win a wider
audience. Working mothers or career women whose hopes for
advancement included snagging the resident Adonis are no
longer typical of this new wave of novels populated by serial
killer investigators, ghost busters, and even vampires.
The boring has turned into the ridiculous. So it was with
pleasant surprise that, having ejected the first disk of
a vapid Danielle Steel novel, I next inserted TRAIN
TO TRIESTE by first time novelist Domnica Radulescu,
a literate romance that breathes spontaneous life from its
opening paragraphs. In the memoir-clarity of first person,
the story of Mona Manoliu is told, circa 1977 in Ceausescu's
Romania, as she falls in love with a young man who is later
seen in the uniform of the secret police. Fleeing the country
for Chicago, Mona goes on to live a quite different life
with another man, but can never forget her one great love.
Indeed, twenty years later, when she finally returns to
Romania to learn the truth, the moment is rendered with
exquisite detail, something that is simply absent in most
of today's less believable manipulations. This audiobook
kept me through all nine disks, thanks to the well drawn
character of Mona, whose hauntingly original voice is honest,
brave, witty, and most of all passionate and alive. Thanks
also to narrator Yelena Shmulenson, whose
ability to empathically inhabit the character is matched
by her masterful delivery and authentic accent.
TIME by Adam Frank re-asks the big questions about the
origins of the universe from the perspective of time, and
how our perceptions of time change along with technology.
With the subtitle "Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight
of the Big Bang," the book shows how differently our
lives are ordered when compared to the past, and what the
future may hold. Is time real? Are there multiple universes
out there? Why are we stuck in our understanding of time,
just as Einstein was stuck melding forces with gravity?
And if there is a breakthrough, what will it tell us about
what happened before the Big Bang? Read by David
Drummond, the book will get you thinking about
time in a new way. Because, unlike a rock, time is not solid,
and is all in the point of view.
There's a lot of anger out there regarding Wall Street greed,
and the overall lack of morality, with corporations focused
solely on profits at the expense of other people and the environment.
With laid off workers picketing the dissolution of the middle
class, the iconic play DEATH
OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller has been given a new audio
rendering, with Stacy Keach at the helm as
Willy Loman, a disillusioned man who can only give his sons
the American Dream by committing suicide so they'll collect
the insurance. Keach has a long career on stage and screen,
and is also the host of American Greed on CNBC. This powerful
play is as befitting today as when it was written in 1949,
and is available from L.A. Theatre Works.
Finally, have you been BRANDWASHED?
Indubitably, says marketing expert Martin Lindstrom. Not only
are you being influenced to remember product names, but you're
being manipulated to purchase products based on carefully
scripted commercials and visuals linked to psychological tests.
Your own biases and perceptions are being used against you,
regardless of whether those perceptions reflect reality. Multinational
corporations spend millions to discover what influences your
choices, and then they bring to bear tools of deception based
on that data. What's most surprising here is the depth and
extent of the con, even among those who think they've chosen
freely. Narrated by Dan Woren, Brandwashed
shows that we are all just like the child screaming for that
box of Sugar Pops set at his eye level for a reason.