Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (Audio Book)

October 5, 2008

From Publisher’s Weekly
Vonnegut’s 1963 satirical science fiction novel still manages to pack a powerfully subversive punch. The new audio release offers listeners an excellent opportunity to connect—or reconnect—with a classic text whose thematic elements—nuclear terror, the complications of science, American imperialism, global capitalism and the role of religion in public life—are remarkably relevant to our 21st-century landscape. The story line centers on a young writer’s quest to research the history of the atomic bomb, which leads to a bizarre political soap opera and apocalyptic showdown on the shores of a seedy banana republic in the Caribbean. Tony Roberts brings tremendous energy to his reading, projecting a sardonic tone perfectly suited to Vonnegut. His portrayals of the principal male figures sometimes take the form of interchangeable over-the-top carnival barkers, but given the essence of the material, such a unnuanced approach can be understood and appreciated. The audiobook includes a 2005 interview in which Vonnegut—who died April 11, 2007—discusses how his life shaped his literary craft.

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Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk (Audio Book)

October 5, 2008

From Publishers Weekly
Palahniuk’s grotesque romp aims to skewer the ruthless superficiality of the fashion world and winds up with a tale as savagely glib as what it derides. Narrator Shannon McFarland, once a gorgeous fashion model, has been hideously disfigured in a mysterious drive-by shooting. Her jaw has been shot off, leaving her not only bereft of a career and boyfriend, but suddenly invisible to the world. Along comes no-nonsense, pill-popping diva Brandy Alexander, a resplendent, sassy, transgendered chick, who has modeled her body rearrangement–the breast implants, the hair, the figure–on what Shannon used to look like. Brandy suggests veils, high camp and no self-pity. Shannon wants revenge[…] Adding to the plot’s contrivances are the relentless flashbacks, heralded at the beginning of almost every paragraph with “Jump back to…” and the author’s pretentious device of using a fashion photographer’s commands (“Flash. Give me adoration. Flash. Give me a break”) to signpost the narrator’s epiphanies. Palahniuk writes like he’s overdosed on Details magazine. Though the absurd surprise ending may incite groans of disbelief, this book does have fun moments when campy banter tops the heroine’s flat, whiny bathos.

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The Moonchild by Aleister Crowley (E-Book)

October 2, 2008

Crowley’s most famous novel. It deals with the endless battle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. A young girl is drawn into a magical war between two men and is forced to choose between them. The reader is taken through an incredible series of magical intrigues involving a Black Lodge.

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Hello House by Richard Matheson (Audio Book)

October 2, 2008

Rolf Rudolph Deutsch is going die. But when Deutsch, a wealthy magazine and newpaper publisher, starts thinking seriously about his impending death, he offers to pay a physicist and two mediums, one physical and one mental, $100,000 each to establish the facts of life after death.

Dr. Lionel Barrett, the physicist, accompanied by the mediums, travel to the Belasco House in Maine, which has been abandoned and sealed since 1949 after a decade of drug addiction, alcoholism, and debauchery. For one night, Barrett and his colleagues investigate the Belasco House and learn exactly why the townfolks refer to it as the Hell House.

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I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (Audio Book)

October 2, 2008

Amazon.com Review
One of the most influential vampire novels of the 20th century, I Am Legend regularly appears on the “10 Best” lists of numerous critical studies of the horror genre. As Richard Matheson’s third novel, it was first marketed as science fiction (for although written in 1954, the story takes place in a future 1976). A terrible plague has decimated the world, and those who were unfortunate enough to survive have been transformed into blood-thirsty creatures of the night. Except, that is, for Robert Neville. He alone appears to be immune to this disease, but the grim irony is that now he is the outsider. He is the legendary monster who must be destroyed because he is different from everyone else. Employing a stark, almost documentary style, Richard Matheson was one of the first writers to convince us that the undead can lurk in a local supermarket freezer as well as a remote Gothic castle. His influence on a generation of bestselling authors–including Stephen King and Dean Koontz–who first read him in their youth is, well, legendary.

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Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk (Audio Book)

October 1, 2008

From the author of the New York Times bestseller Choke and the cult classic Fight Club, a cunningly plotted novel about the ultimate verbal weapon, one that reinvents the apocalyptic thriller for our times.

Despite the soothing title, readers know better than to anticipate a kinder, gentler novel from the author of Fight Club. On its surface, Lullaby is a fable of supernatural horror, one that concerns a newspaper reporter researching sudden infant death syndrome who discovers a fatal poem in a children’s anthology, a verse that kills the listener whenever someone recites (or even thinks) its lines. While trying to destroy every copy of the anthology, he succumbs to the temptation to inflict the poem’s evil power on those who annoy him (which, in Palahniuk’s universe, means plenty of casualties). Such a plot outline barely hints at the range of the author’s thematic obsessions, which here include consumerism, necrophilia, radical environmentalism, class-action suits, identity and free will, sensory overload (“Imagine a plague you catch through your ears”) and the never-ending horrors of real estate. Characteristic for Palahniuk, the novel’s setup is more subversively engaging than the follow-through, though his writing remains so deliriously rich in ideas and entertaining in its stream-of-conscious riffing that conventions of character, plot and plausibility seem like comparatively empty anachronisms.

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Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk (Audio Book)

October 1, 2008

From Publishers Weekly
Palahniuk’s audacious ninth novel tells the story of Cassie Wright, an aging porn queen who intends to put an exclamation point on her career by having sex with 600 men in one day on film. The story begins with Mr. 600—the pornosaur who introduced Cassie to the business—as he describes the other 599 actors awaiting their moment on screen. The perspective then shifts to Mr. 72, an adopted Midwestern 20-something who is one of the many young men claiming to be Cassie’s long-lost son. Mr. 137, a has-been television star hoping to revive his career, wants to ask Cassie’s hand in marriage so that the two can star in a reality TV show. But for a novel centered around a gargantuan gangbang, there’s surprisingly little action; the small amount of narrative movement takes place backstage, where the characters attempt to get a sense of one another while waiting for their number to be called. There are sharp moments when Palahniuk compassionately and candidly examines the flesh-on-film industry, but mostly this reads like a cross between the Spice Channel and Days of Our Lives.

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A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (Audio Book and E-Book)

October 1, 2008

Amazon.com Review
“A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head. The green earflaps, full of large ears and uncut hair and the fine bristles that grew in the ears themselves, stuck out on either side like turn signals indicating two directions at once. Full, pursed lips protruded beneath the bushy black moustache and, at their corners, sank into little folds filled with disapproval and potato chip crumbs.”

Meet Ignatius J. Reilly, the hero of John Kennedy Toole’s tragicomic tale, A Confederacy of Dunces. This 30-year-old medievalist lives at home with his mother in New Orleans, pens his magnum opus on Big Chief writing pads he keeps hidden under his bed, and relays to anyone who will listen the traumatic experience he once had on a Greyhound Scenicruiser bound for Baton Rouge. (“Speeding along in that bus was like hurtling into the abyss.”) But Ignatius’s quiet life of tyrannizing his mother and writing his endless comparative history screeches to a halt when he is almost arrested by the overeager Patrolman Mancuso–who mistakes him for a vagrant–and then involved in a car accident with his tipsy mother behind the wheel. One thing leads to another, and before he knows it, Ignatius is out pounding the pavement in search of a job.

Over the next several hundred pages, our hero stumbles from one adventure to the next. His stint as a hotdog vendor is less than successful, and he soon turns his employers at the Levy Pants Company on their heads. Ignatius’s path through the working world is populated by marvelous secondary characters: the stripper Darlene and her talented cockatoo; the septuagenarian secretary Miss Trixie, whose desperate attempts to retire are constantly, comically thwarted; gay blade Dorian Greene; sinister Miss Lee, proprietor of the Night of Joy nightclub; and Myrna Minkoff, the girl Ignatius loves to hate. The many subplots that weave through A Confederacy of Dunces are as complicated as anything you’ll find in a Dickens novel, and just as beautifully tied together in the end. But it is Ignatius–selfish, domineering, and deluded, tragic and comic and larger than life–who carries the story. He is a modern-day Quixote beset by giants of the modern age. His fragility cracks the shell of comic bluster, revealing a deep streak of melancholy beneath the antic humor. John Kennedy Toole committed suicide in 1969 and never saw the publication of his novel. Ignatius Reilly is what he left behind, a fitting memorial to a talented and tormented life.

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The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (E-Book)

October 1, 2008

The Metamorphosis, first published in 1915, is the most famous of Kafka’s works, along with The Trial and The Castle. The story begins when a traveling salesman, Gregor Samsa, wakes up to find himself transformed into a giant insect. Curiously, his condition does not arouse surprise in his family, who merely despise it as an impending burden. As with all of Kafka’s works, The Metamorphosis is open to a wide range of interpretations. Most obvious are themes relating to society’s treatment of those who are different, the loneliness of isolation, and the absurdity of the human condition.

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The Trial by Franz Kafka (E-Book)

October 1, 2008

Amazon.com Review
The story of The Trial‘s publication is almost as fascinating as the novel itself. Kafka intended his parable of alienation in a mysterious bureaucracy to be burned, along with the rest of his diaries and manuscripts, after his death in 1924. Yet his friend Max Brod pressed forward to prepare The Trial and the rest of his papers for publication. When the Nazis came to power, publication of Jewish writers such as Kafka was forbidden; Kafka’s writings, many of which have distinctively Jewish themes, did not find a broad audience until after World War II. (Hannah Arendt once observed that although “during his lifetime he could not make a decent living, [Kafka] will now keep generations of intellectuals both gainfully employed and well-fed.”) Among the current crop of Kafka heirs is Breon Mitchell, the translator of this edition of The Trial. Rather than tidying up Kafka’s unconventional grammar and punctuation (as previous translators have done), Mitchell captures the loose, uneasy, even uncomfortable constructions of Kafka’s original story. His translation technique is the only way to convey the comedy and confusion of this narrative, in which Josef K., “without having done anything truly wrong,” is arrested, tried, convicted and executed–on a charge that is never disclosed to him.

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