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Audio Book News
By Jonathan Lowe

MAY 2012

by Jonathan Lowe

POCKET KINGS by Ted Heller is a blisteringly satirical comparison of two obsessions--writing and gambling--and masquerades as the memoir of Frank Dixon, a self described loser whose highs and lows are paced out like one of the road trips he describes, in which Frank takes a cab from New York to Vegas as "Chip Zero" along with two fellow losers nicknamed "Toll House Cookie" and "Second Gunman," meter running. William Roberts inhabits all the characters like he inhabits the protagonist, with an unerring sense of ironic poise. Like one long and supremely funny review of two similar professions, the narrative affords Roberts a wide sonic canvas onto which he pours the many colorful and hilarious heartaches of an unforgettable character. Roberts is so convincing, and the text so full of opportunity, that by the time Dixon says, "listener, it's all true, every word," you'll want to hear Roberts speak them all again.

Tavia Gilbert gives an appealing and believable performance creating the characters of LOOKING FOR SALVATION AT THE DAIRY QUEEN by Susan Gregg Gilmore, particularly the first person protagonist Catherine Grace Cline, a teenage girl who lives with her father, a Baptist preacher in a small Georgia town. When Catherine acts up in church, her father bans her from the Dairy Queen for the rest of the summer--a place she'd always gone to think and plan her escape to Atlanta. When she finally gets the chance to get away, things don't turn out exactly as expected. This small town southern story is a welcome relief from all the Hollywood or New York based young adult novels (like The Devil Wears Prada). Coming of age, a young lady whose only ambition was just to escape a tiny town, learns the truth, later, that life has meaning where you are, even if that place never makes the national news. Not without heaping soft servings of drama, humor, and insight, this novel is recommended for girls wanting to understand the meaning of life and love, and for women wanting to remember what growing up and making those choices really felt like.

Science writer Jonah Lehrer reads his book IMAGINE on audio, revealing how the right brain aids the left brain in making connections that produce astonishing creativity. Most astonishing, though, is that we all have this capacity, and Lehrer shows how to access it, along with the neuro-scientific mechanisms which propel ideas and talents forward. I interviewed Lehrer once about his earlier book "Proust was a Neuroscientist."

Jenny Lawson's new book LET'S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED is part memoir, part fiction. If you like your humor on the bizarre side (and who doesn't), this is definitely a must hear. She grew up in west Texas, a place plagued by high winds, monotonous landscape and insane drivers (the Deluded Triangle is bounded by Dallas, San Antonio and El Paso.) So who can blame her for developing an imagination to cope with existence on the frontier of civilization? Compared to Tina Fey and David Sedaris, Lawson is best known for her site The Bloggess, and also for collecting taxidermied animals and holding Zombie Apocalypse drills (while donating to charity.) Did I mention offbeat? She knows Wil Wheaton, an actor who sometimes narrates audiobooks (like Ready Player One), and they share a love of poker. Writing is like poker, actually. You are dealt cards by genetics according to the laws of chance (if not Hoyle), and it helps (if you're trying to do comedy) to have a horrific childhood. Jenny seems to qualify there (as do I, come to think of it.) Lawson also narrates the book, sounding a little like Jessica Simpson, but with no inhibitions and double the I.Q.. Did she really sneak a dead Cuban alligator onto an airplane because she felt it needed an adventure? You'll have to listen to find out. And hear about the angry post-it notes she leaves for her husband.

Finally, THINKING SMALL by Andrea Hiott (and read by Suzanne Toren) sounds like a History Channel special on Hitler, albeit with far more background information. The iconic Beetle or VW Bug was designed by Ferdinand Porsche, an Austrian industrialist praised for his revolutionary and beautiful cars. With backing by Hitler, who wanted a "people's car" for the masses instead of just the elite, Porsche scaled back to the essentials, and came up with a vehicle which soon conquered the worlds of advertising and finally the post war hippie generation. Odd that this lovable vehicle should start in evil to become the choice of the free love war protesters. Simplicity, elegance, and function---sounds like something Steve Jobs might have designed. The entire tale is here, including the full timeline, revealing one of the most revolutionary cars of all time.

2012 Past Columns