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Audio Buzz, Past
Audio Book News
By Jonathan Lowe

FEB 2014
by Jonathan Lowe

Actor Stanley Tucci hosts VINE TALK, which was produced for NPR, and is now anthologized as audiobooks by Hachette. The formula for this wine related radio show is to present a panel of celebrity guests, (many friends of Tucci), to judge a blind selection of wines from one particular region, such as Burgundy or Argentina, or within one varietal, such as Pinot Noir or Malbec. Five or six bottles are judged, with the audience also picking their own favorite. There are 13 half hour shows, with stars such as John Lithgow, Nathan Lane, and Rosie Perez adding to the commentary. Since these are actors, the conversation often roams to movies, stage, and personal anecdotes unrelated to wine, but the co-host dutifully corrals much of this back in line before it takes up too much time. Then they vote. The panelists are not particularly expert on the subject, but at least they seem in most cases to be acquainted with how to judge, the co-host adding tips on purchasing now and then. My only suggestions are that they get British actor Julian Curry as a guest, (since he has more knowledge of wines than any of the actors thus far invited), package all 13 shows onto one book since $4 per 30 min. episode seems high unless you just want a particular one, and that they advise the celebs to limit their conversations to wine related anecdotes or travel to the regions discussed. But of course it's Tucci's show, and wine does mean fun and loose lips!

Mary Matalin and James Carville are an enigma. Can two people be married for twenty years while passionately holding onto widely different (and public) political views? Apparently so. Mary served as consultant under Reagan, both Bush presidents, and Dick Cheney. James was lead strategist of Clinton's election campaign, and was cohost of CNN's Crossfire, while lecturing in political science at Tulane as a liberal lawyer, educator and pundit. Their new book, which they also read on audio, is LOVE & WAR: Twenty Years, Three Presidents, Two Daughters and One Louisiana Home. The book proves that opposites attract, especially if both parties love to argue. It also proves that the two-party system has an appeal to those who can't think (or move) outside the box, leaving us with stagnation in Washington. There is some crossover here, though. They do agree on a few things, and you can see the middle ground in which their mutual respect comes to light. If one likes to take sides in arguments, though, while hearing about how they've endured their marriage..whether it's all about makeup sex, and why they fled the rat race in Washington for New Orleans, it's hard to find a more iconic mismatch or a more feisty delivery in the game that is partisan politics. (They also co-chaired the 2013 NFL Host Committee, after all.) Was Cheney a war hero or a war criminal? Was Clinton's being a two-faced womanizer that important compared to what he accomplished (or didn't)--or not? Was Bush an admirable patriot and great leader or a simpleton who became the worst president in history? Depends on who you ask. Both Mary and James are talented communicators, and this shows in the tone and pacing of their narration. Who is right and who wrong--who is telling truth and who fiction--is a grey area reserved for the listener to judge. Meanwhile their love for each other stands outside any argument as non-fiction.

New in fiction is a literary novel about the emotional and personal impact of tragedy and blame, titled PERFECT by Rachel Joyce, a British author and dramatist. It's a sensitive and almost stream of consiousness portrayal of characters coming to grips with ordinary relationships. Paul Rhys wins "most unlikely voice compared to face" award. Look at his photo on the back of the audiobook, imagine how he might naturally sound, and then press Play.

Sue Monk Kidd, author of The Secret Life of Bees has a new novel set historically in 1803 Charleston, titled THE INVENTION OF WINGS. Slavery and women's emancipation are the themes, focusing on a young girl named Sarah Grimke, who is give a ten year old slave handmaid named "Handful" on her own eleventh birthday. Kidd follows them for the next 35 years, as both strive for freedom in their own way. They are narrated with delicate and unsentimental evocation by Adepero Oduye and Jenna Lamia, both perfectly suited to the task.

2014 Past Columns