Three Audible Notes from Old New Yorkers

My New Yorker pile may sit for months, even years, but I usually find something between the old covers.  Although I was looking for suggestions for audible books, I did not expect to get ideas from an article on Willa Cather or Adam Gopnik’s 2017 review of Ron Chernow’s historical biography, Grant.

Gopnik’s review of Chernow’s Grant did not inspire me to read the book; I’ll wait for the Broadway musical.  But his reference to “the funniest thing ever written about Grant…James Thurber’s “If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomattox,” led me to the Thurber collection – The James Thurber Audio Collection, read by Keith Olbermann.  Thurber is one of my favorite humorists; I still have a copy of The Thurber Carnival from my college days.51X6jSZbZBL._SL500_

If laughter is healing, this is great medicine.  The first essay – “There’s No Place Like Home” – first published in the New Yorker in 1937 – had me laughing through Thurber’s interpretation of a French-English Dictionary for travelers.  Who knew how funny it could be to hear a translation for asking for directions.  For my adventure loving travelers, the next story is called “The Bear Who Let It Alone.”  I’m looking forward to all the other twenty-two stories.

51BroN3HRXL._SL500_  Touted as the book Cather considered her best, Death Comes to the Archbishop, was the focus of Mary Duenwald’s essay on a trip to New Mexico for a 2007 essay in the New York Times Travel section – Entering The world of Will Cather’s Archbishop.  The story follows

“Cather’s portrayal of Jean Marie Latour (her fictional name for the real-life bishop, John Baptist Lamy) paints a complicated but very romantic picture of New Mexico in the mid-19th century, just after its annexation to the United States…her book provides a realistic account of the bishop’s efforts to replace the lawless and profligate Spanish priests of the territory, his visits to a beloved Navajo chief, his friendship with the Old West explorer Kit Carson and his dream of building a cathedral in Santa Fe.”

51CXbQEFAXL._SL500_Dan Chiasson’s essay on Emaily Dickinson focused on a 2017 publication of the Envelope Poems, a small book similar to the handmade books the poet made as gifts.  Some of her poems, later found on backs of used envelopes, are included in the selection. Because the Envelope Poems include actual transcriptions of Dickinson’s handwriting, with facsimiles of her layout and her process (crossings-out, substitutions, etc.), the book is to seen more than heard.  However, reading the article – Emily Dickinson’s Singular Scrap Poetry – gave me a better understanding of the poet, and had me thinking how nice it would be to listen to some of her poetry.

Audible has several possibilities, one with a collection – Fifty Poems by Emily Dickinson read by Jill Eikenberry, Nancy Kwan, Melissa Manchester, Jean Smart, Sharon Stone, Meryl Streep, and Alfre Woodard – a 44 minute respite.

I’m listening…


Listening to The Sleeper and the Spindle and The Color of Lightning


61sse7fwwcl-1-_sl300_ The Sleeper and the Spindle

Neil Gaiman’s The Sleeper and the Spindle is a twist on famous fairy tales Snow White and Sleeping Beauty combining the two with a fervor against evil, and a clever ending proclaiming strength in choosing one’s own fate.  No handsome prince needed to save the day here.

I found the story on my library’s free overdrive audible offerings, listening for about an hour while I walked my cares away.  The cast of voices, narrated by Julian Rhind-Tutt in beautiful British intonation, offers beautifully rendered dialogue accompanied by mysterious music reminiscent of a Tim Burton production.  The sleeping minions guarding the castle turn into whispering zombies, while magic twirls through spider webs and crooked walking canes.

A fun and easy way to while away an hour, with a few well meaning morals and a new  adjustment to “happily ever after.”

9780061690457_p0_v2_s192x300   The Color of Lightning

Looking for Paulette Giles’ National Book Award Finalist, News of the World, led me to her earlier book  – The Color of Lightning – available on the library’s audio offerings.  Never having read this author, I downloaded the book and am already hypnotized by her poetic descriptions of Texas landscape and her sweet atmospheric notes – {a dawn} “of fading stars like night watchmen walking the periphery of darkness and calling out that all is well.”  Soon, however, the somnolent tone is gone, replaced by the horror and misery of the Indian raid, with descriptions of murder and rape, and continuing with their tortured capture.

The main character is based on a historical figure, Britt Johnson, a freed slave who journeys into the Texas Panhandle to rescue his wife and children — abducted not by slave traders but by the Plains Indians.  In her review for the Washington Post, Carolyn See noted “He’s a remarkable man, caught between hostile Indians on one side and racist whites on the other. But the larger story is about the utter failure of the two cultures to understand each other.”

The book is fast-paced and gripping, keeping me alert as I listen for the next – escape? retribution? freedom?    Have you read the book?