Wednesday, July 31, 2013

346 (2013 #30). Bossypants

written and read by Tina Fey

I purchased this audiobook for my university library because it won two awards at the 2012 Audies for audiobooks:  best Biography/Memoir, and the big one, Audiobook of the Year.  It was also nominated for a Grammy.

Actress, comedian, writer, and producer Tina Fey reads her own work.  Although she reads a bit too fast (in my opinion) and speaks a hard-to-hear sotto voce for some asides, I can't imagine anyone else as this audiobook narrator.

This memoir outlines Tina's life through humorous anecdotes from her childhood in the 1970s and 1980s, her early jobs at a YMCA and with Chicago's Second City comedy group, her years with Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock, and her personal life (for example, her honeymoon and being a mother).

For me, one of the funniest parts was that honeymoon, which Tina and her husband spend on a cruise because he doesn't like to fly. I love cruising, but some of her observations about it are spot-on.

Fey doesn't pretend she's not on an audiobook, even helpfully referring, at appropriate times, to the PDF file on the final disc that includes photographs from the print version.  The photos have brief captions, but would best be looked at while actually listening to the audio, as some are directly related to the text.

On the other hand - the audiobook has both an audio of the famous Sarah Palin - Hillary Clinton opening sketch from Saturday Night Live in September 2008, AND a video (on the last disc) of the same sketch.  I borrowed a copy of the print book from the local public library - the sketch script is typed out (with handwritten corrections), but I think hearing it (and seeing it) is much better.

I would recommend this fun, light-hearted audiobook that also has some profound observations about being a woman.

© Amanda Pape - 2013

[The audiobook, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to my university library and local public library respectively.]

Monday, July 22, 2013

345 (2013 #29). New Found Land

by Allan Wolf

After listening to Allan Wolf's wonderful The Watch That Ends the Night, about the Titanic, I ordered a copy of his now-out-of-print New Found Land, a similar novel-in-(free-)verse, but this time about the Lewis and Clark expedition.  Like the former, New Found Land uses the alternating voices of twelve members of the Corps of Discovery, as well as President Jefferson and Lewis' dog Seaman, to narrate the story.

While not packing quite the emotional punch of the tragedy of the Titanic, this was still a wonderful read.  The title is a play on words, as Seaman was of the Newfoundland breed.  He is the omniscient narrator in this book, and is called Oolum, supposedly his private or "true" name.  And like The Watch, I found myself most drawn to the less-famous characters, such as young George Shannon and carpenter Patrick Gass.  Quotations from the letters and journal entries of Meriweather Lewis and William Clark are used in many cases for their voicings.  Maps at the beginning of each of the seven sections of the book help orient the reader to the locations mentioned in the novel.

As with The Watch, Wolf did extensive research for this novel, documented in 22 pages at the end of the book, including what became of his 14 narrators.  His website also includes a curriculum guide.  Due to the length of the book (478 pages without the notes at the end), I think it would be most appropriate for older students, although the free verse used in most of the novel makes it easier to read than most books of this length.

© Amanda Pape - 2013

[I purchased this book and will be adding it to my university library's collection.]

Saturday, July 20, 2013

344 (2013 #28). The Round House

by Louise Erdrich,
read by Gary Farmer

I can see why this book won the 2012 National Book Award for Fiction.  Besides being a well-written story, it highlights a major issue in Native American tribal law - the "difficulty of prosecuting crimes of sexual violence on reservations," according to author Louise Erdrich, who is Native American herself.

This story is set in 1988, and is told by Antone Bazil Coutts Jr. (known as Joe) as an adult, looking back on that spring and summer of his 13th year. 

At the beginning of the book, Joe's mother Geraldine, a tribal enrollment specialist, is violently raped.  She retreats into her bedroom and for a long time, won't talk about what happened.  Joe and his father, a tribal judge, discuss the case and try to determine who did it from previous case files.  Joe and his friends, Cappy, Angus, and Zack, do some exploring on their own and turn up more possible evidence.

Eventually Geraldine talks and it's clear who committed the crime.  It's also likely he murdered a young Native American girl and her baby.  The problem is, Geraldine can't remember exactly where she was raped.  It was near the sacred tribal round house, but it may have occurred on nearby state or federal land rather than on tribal lands.  This is important, because in 1988, a tribe could not prosecute non-tribal members who committed sex crimes within the boundaries of the reservation. The rapist looks like he's going to get away with it.

This evolving storyline is interspersed with tales of life on the reservation, and with Native American legends, the latter told mostly by Joe's grandfather Mooshum (who I understand was a character in Erdrich's earlier novel, A Plague of Doves).   There are many other interesting characters in the story as well, such as Sonya, the former stripper who lives with Joe's uncle; Father Trevor, the Catholic priest, and Linda Wishkob, a white woman adopted into a Native American family.

The story is suspenseful and the characters are fascinating, which kept me going despite a slow reading with unusual pauses by Native American actor Gary Farmer.  On the plus side for the audiobook, the print version of Erdrich's novel doesn't use quotation marks around speech, and Farmer's narration helps make it clear when a character is speaking.

© Amanda Pape - 2013

[The audiobook, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to my university library and interlibrary loan, respectively.]