Friday, November 21, 2014

Listen Up for the Delight of Your Life!

David Sedaris is NOT to be read.  The only way to experience him is in audio where he reads his own highly personal essays about his family and his life experiences. He is hilarious and touching, all at the same moment.  Listen to ALL of them.

Now that I've listened to all of David Sedaris on audiobook format, I can assure you that it is a treat which will occupy you for hour upon hour with the sheer delight of listening. Gay, originally from New York but brought up in North Carolina, then living abroad, an artist, a writer--really, a remarkable individual--but what he does best is tell the stories of his life and his family's lives aloud. I read one of his essays instead and it was far less of an experience. You absolutely must hear him read his essays instead. Put an audience in front of him and that adds even an extra dimension, such as his LIVE FROM CARNEGIE HALL audio book. 

These are not one liners or zingers like you might expect in stand-up comedy. Instead, these are very individual, very detailed stories about largely daily life with especially a reflection back on one's family, mother, father, siblings and the humor of dealing with one's family all of one's life. He has all of their voices down cold and it is hard for me to pick out my favorite family member. His father and his brother are sure strong contenders though. Sedaris has a family of tremendous characters in their own right. Sedaris 's work was featured a great deal on NPR and he has built up a big following from that. If I had to pick someone who reminds me of Sedaris, it would be Mark Twain.

Jonathan Cecil narrating the Jeeves and Wooster series by P. G. Woodhouse is a fabulous humor delight. Some other narrators who also do an excellent job with Wodehouse's Jeeves & Bertie are Martin Jarvis and Ian Carmichael.  You can't go wrong with any of those.  I can listen to these again and again at any spot in the narration.

What sets Wodehouse immediately apart from anyone I've read in the last decade is that he can really write. Every word is well chosen. If these works were edited by anyone else, they were edited superbly (alas, a disappearing art in our own time). Also, he was extremely witty and knew how to use irony as a literary device. He supremely understood the fine art of characterization. I can't even think of an author to compare him to who is writing today and that is not a compliment to the present day. The only other writer he brings to memory is Jane Austen but more with her idiosyncratic characters than with her romantic ones (so more Mr. Collins, Lady Catherine and Mrs. Bennett instead of Darcy and Elizabeth).

The stories revolve around a well connected English gentleman, Bertie Wooster, who is as idle as can be. There are lords and ladies in his family. He did go to Eton and Oxford and now belongs to all the right clubs. However, the way he behaves, is the way most men of his class behaved in England back in his day, when automobiles were first coming out. 

Jeeves is as opposite from Bertie as can be. Jeeves is of the working class, Bertie's valet. He is suave, intelligent, well read, shrewd and manipulative. Also, he is always calm and collected, never losing his cool. In each and every story, it is Jeeves who rescues Bertie, his friends or his family members after they have gotten themselves (always) into some ferocious mess of their own making. Just with picking out potential marital partners, they are all utter disasters.

All six of the E.F. Benson books regarding Lucia, Mapp or Mapp & Lucia are excellent.  I have read and listened to every one of the them many times. There are many who have narrated these works. Nadia May is one of the best. 

One of my perennial favorites of the six novelsis "Lucia in London". It sees the social climbing Lucia Lucas trying to take London by storm after her husband inherited a house there. She already took her own small town of Riseholm by storm. Lucia is brazen, audacious and fearless. 

Soon she has her own cadre of society ladies called Luciaphiles who eagerly watch her social climbing adventures. Equally hilarious are all of the talents which she claims for herself even though she can only do a smidgen of the art form. She can play one movement only of Moonlight Sonata on the piano, the slow one. She loves to talk Italian but she knows only a handful of expressions and makes up the rest of it. And so it goes....

Lucia has one folly after another and, of course, the reader is a Luciaphile as well by this time. There is no Mapp in this book though and I admit that adding Miss Mapp to the series is sheer genius. This you encounter in all its virulence in "Mapp and Lucia."

Who would have thought two middle aged women in 1920s and 1930s England could be this funny?

I have had excellent success at finding almost all of these in audio format at the public library online using the overdrive app. To review, you can put the overdrive app on your phone or tablet. Add your public library to the app itself. Then look up these works, check them out and click the download button. You immediately have these audiobooks on your phone and can be taking a walk while listening to them instantly! If you have any problems doing this, your librarian will help you by phone or your visit to the library. I've had them respond by email too. I made this suggestion in an earlier entry, Rebecca followed it up and her public librarian has helped her by phone and in person numerous times with overdrive. It is the library's job to provide this assistance to you! Libraries have invested heavily in this online delivery so they want you to "get with the program." They would far rather you do this than order a hard back book for you and go through all the rigamarole of processing that real world book. That is so yesterday.

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