The Art of Grace: On Moving Well
By Sarah L. Kaufman. Read by Christina
2015. 9hr. HighBridge, CD, $29.99 (9781622319763).
Grace, according to dance-critic Kaufman,
is the way someone moves when they’re
comfortable in their own skin. Her personal
favorite seems to be actor Cary Grant, whose
early training in vaudeville led to his impeccable carriage and comedic timing. The critic
culls sports, film, sculpture, music—and, of
course, dance—looking for prime examples
of grace. Delaine reads the lyric text in a carefully paced, fluent, and cultured manner. The
words seem to flow smoothly and effortlessly.
Occasional foreign phrases are read with impeccable accents, and direct quotes are voiced
distinctly. Kaufman is well connected in the
world of popular culture, intelligent and an
excellent observer of life. She shares intimate
stories of celebrities she’s interviewed and
freely quotes from scholarly texts and other
writings. The results feel like a private coaching session from Miss Manners that will make
listeners a little more conscious of their actions and maybe a little more patient with the
car in front of them. —Candace Smith
The Bazaar of Bad Dreams.
By Stephen King. Read by the
author and others.
2015. 19hr. Simon & Schuster Audio, CD, $49.99
King’s latest collects 20 stories and poems
featuring characters grappling with mortality,
versational, sometimes conspiratorial aside
straight from the author to the reader. King
admiringly shares his favorite authors and in-
fluences and valiantly attempts to describe the
mysteries of the creative process. The real treat
in this collection, however, is the truly excel-
lent cast of narrators—each matched perfectly
to his or her story. Each performance, though
all differ in their own ways, masters the tone
and style necessary to invoke in the listener
just the right mix of dread and anticipation
expected from a King tale. Standouts include
the late Edward Herrmann’s personable but
slyly cruel elderly judge in “The Dune” and
Hope Davis’ haunting “The Little Green God
of Agony,” which elicits sympathy for both the
sensible yet bitter nurse and the whiny old bil-
lionaire she serves. In a departure from King’s
usual style, in “A Death,” Cotter Smith slows
the pace and gives a harsh, stripped-down
story of western justice. Likely every listener
will come away with a different favorite in this
fantastically disturbing collection from the
master storyteller. —Lizzie Matkowski
The Dead Student.
By John Katzenbach. Read by Kirby
2015. 17hr. HighBridge, CD, $44.99 (9781622319411).
When Timothy Warner, a recovering alcoholic, feels like he might backslide, he calls
his uncle, a psychiatrist (and also a former
alcoholic). They arrange to get together, but
the uncle never shows up. Back at his uncle’s
office, Timothy finds the man’s dead body. It
looks like suicide, but Timothy doesn’t believe
that for a second. This is a dark and gripping
story, and celebrated reader Heyborne does
an admirable job of reproducing the author’s
claustrophobic storytelling style by modulating his voice, almost giving it an echo in
some scenes, as though we were listening to
him speaking inside some close-walled, rather
scary room. He does a fine job, too, with the
voices of the two lead characters—one male,
one female—although some of the supporting
characters sound perhaps a bit interchangeable from time to time. Overall, this is a very
nice interpretation of the book. —David Pitt
The Invention of Nature: Alexander von
Humboldt’s New World.
By Andrea Wulf. Read by David
2015. 14hr. HighBridge, CD, $39.99 (9781622319800).
Alexander von Humboldt may not be a familiar name today, but in the early nineteenth
century, he was as well-known as Napoléon.
Wulf’s thorough and inviting biography explores his life, career, and lasting influence,
chronicling von Humboldt’s travels through
Europe and Asia and to South America, collecting specimens and exploring the world.
That von Humboldt wrote so invitingly
about his adventures established his personal
popularity and stimulated public interest in
his discoveries and those of fellow scientists.
Drummond’s wonderfully effective reading
matches Wulf’s marriage of a charismatic protagonist and lively prose. He captures Wulf’s
depiction of the irrepressible von Humboldt, the active man whose dangerous treks,
spurred by his boundless curiosity, led to a
worldview that influenced his contemporaries
and still resonates today. In his companionable baritone, Drummond smoothly voices
the multiple accents necessary for this globe-spanning account, and his assured reading
reflects the impassioned tone and the unhurried pace of this intriguing tale. —Joyce Saricks
Is Fat Bob Dead Yet?
By Stephen Dobyns. Read by George
2015. 11hr. Dreamscape, CD, $59.99 (9781681414997).
Dobyns is at the top of his game here,
spinning a ripping comic-suspense yarn. An
overweight man named Bob collects a type of
motorcycle known as a Fat Bob. When someone puts out a hit on Fat Bob (the man), it
turns out someone else was riding the motorcycle that day, and a murder mix-up occurs.
The conversational storytelling style is ripe for
the audiobook format—and narrator Newbern nails it. His droll tones keep the pacing
lively while highlighting Dobyns’ witty wordplay. The best jokes are in the descriptions and
other “in-betweens,” and Newbern spotlights
them without overselling the funny. He keeps
the numerous characters clear in the listener’s
ear by adopting different tones and accents:
Detective Vikstrom’s broad New England accent is higher in pitch than Detective Streeter’s
gravelly voice. Amateur con-man Connor
is plainly voiced with a breathy eagerness to
distinguish from his brother, Vasco, the same
straight voice but laconic. Newbern saves the
vocal acrobatics for Sal Nicoletti, an Elvis
lookalike with a voice to not quite match, giving listeners extra insight into the character.
A fun read made more delightful in audio.
—Kaite Mediatore Stover
By James Ellroy. Read by Christopher Lane.
2015. 19hr. Brilliance, CD, $29.99 (9781501276576).
Ellroy’s riveting novel about the run-up to the assassination of John
F. Kennedy gets a brand-new audio treatment. The story is deeply
compelling—which comes as no surprise to Ellroy’s fans—and almost
impossible to put aside until it’s done. It spans five years and features
some of Ellroy’s most complex characters: a trio of law-enforcement officers (two FBI agents and a Los Angeles police officer) whose greed
and corruption set the stage for a political murder. Narrator Lane, an
Audie Award winner, reads the story in tough-guy mode, getting right
in our faces (um, our ears?) in some scenes, almost spitting the dialogue
out—an audio version of Ellroy’s noir prose. There have been other audio adaptations of
the novel, but this might be the best. —David Pitt
Classics Corner Classics Corner highlights new recordings of classic titles.