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Audio Buzz, Past
Audio Book News
By Jonathan Lowe

JULY 2013
by Jonathan Lowe

DAD IS FAT by Jim Gaffigan is a rabid mix of blog posts, observations, and stand up comedy related to his real life experiences raising five kids in a two-bedroom walkup. Topical humor taken from his stand-up routines for various comedy clubs and late night shows like Letterman are combined to produce his first actual book. (Previously his Mr. Universe, Beyond the Pale, King Baby, and Doing My Time were only audiobook stand-up routines, so the complaint that some of that material is reproduced on his first actual book is not a valid one.) With a book to sign at bookstores, Gaffigan is currently touring the country, culminating in July and August performances at universities, arts centers, and the Mirage Hotel in Vegas. While another complaint about this very funny book is that it mostly relates to the trials of being a parent, (and the loss of sleep and eating habits resulting from being caught in those particular cross-hairs), I believe that this too is a plus. Any bachelor or bachelorette without kids can learn and laugh over what Gaffigan says about that side of life. My only complaint is that humor is made by laughing at any possibility of choice we have regarding pop culture and eating at McDonalds. It's exaggerated, to be sure, as Gaffigan plays off many people's understandable impatience with being told what to do by the food police. People know it's bad for them, he seems to be saying, just shut up and enjoy your life! The ironic thing, though, is that by surrendering to junk food ads like lemmings, don't we become the punch line of jokes rammed down our throats by the food purveyors, who don't eat the stuff they make themselves, and pay themselves bonuses while we go to the for-profit hospitals they also own? How funny is that? Still, I recommend this book, particularly on audio. In my opinion, audio is the only way to listen to a comic. Unless you're Woody Allen, writing in The New Yorker.

David Oliver Relin was intending to tell the story of a man who had climbed Everest more than anyone---twenty times. The Sherpa wasn't seeking fame, but wanted to talk about his work in local schools, and about global warming. But within weeks of his arrival, the author found an even more amazing story, that of two doctors who were helping to restore sight among a population of Himalayan poor, who are afflicted more than any people on Earth with cataracts due to higher exposure to UV rays, and inadequate medical care or nutrition. One of the two doctors, Geoffrey Tabin, was a Harvard educated adrenaline junkie that had been among the group who invented bungie jumping. Together with local doctor Sanduk Ruit, they founded the Himalayan Cataract Project, which achieved the remarkable cost-lowering goal of performing surgery at $20 per operation. . . which is even more astonishing (and worth telling) than climbing Everest 20 times. Despite a few minor audio glitches, SECOND SUNS (by the author of Three Cups of Tea) is a well told true story narrated by Rob Shapiro, whose listenable voice and engaging sense of tone amplify the often very descriptive text. This is an inspiring story made better by Relin's command of language and careful attention to detail. If you're looking for a book that will expand your horizons in the way that travel often does, this is that book. It succeeds on many levels, as biography, travelogue, and in the conveying of emotion among children given their sight back.

Janet Evanovich teams with Lee Goldberg in THE HEIST, featuring FBI Special Agent Kate O'Hare and a criminal and con man named, appropriately enough, Nicolas Fox. They pursue a corrupt investment banker hiding on a private island in Indonesia. Should Kate trust Nicolas for this job? Should Janet trust Lee as co-writer? It does seem like an ideal match, as Goldberg has penned episodes of Monk, one of the most eccentric detectives ever to appear on TV. Narrator is the prolific reader Scott Brick, whom I have interviewed (along with Evanovich herself.) As expected, he acquits himself nicely from the charge that Lorelei King should read. Why choose Brick? One of the reasons is obviously that this is a new series, not in the Stephanie Plum line. And Brick is one of the most consistent and dependable of readers in the business, one whom the publisher has worked with many times in the past.

Colum McCann's TRANSATLANTIC was on Obama's reading list, and is read on audio by actress Geraldine Hughes, whose subtle Irish accent enlivens the text in ways that are always believable and never melodramatic. The novel features three women---an Irish housemaid named Lily Duggan meets Frederick Douglass during a time of great hardships, followed by her daughters Emily and Lottie as they settle in America. The characters are given resonance as there individual tales combine to form something greater than the parts of the story. The peace talks of Northern Ireland in the late 20th Century meld with transatlantic flights made by aviators in the early part of the Century to fashion an emotional jigsaw of historical threads that only a novel can quilt. One of the best literary novels this year, nimbly rendered by Hughes.

(Making news is someone in Florida winning over half a billion dollars in the Powerball. Coincidentally, my novel THE INSTANT CELEBRITY is about a $552 Million Florida Powerball winner who disappears, buys a Caribbean island, and finances an attack on a corrupt dictator so that he can reemerge a hero. The audiobook version is "Fame Island," read by Emmy winning film actor Kris Tabori.)


2013 Past Columns