What I’m Reading: …er…Listening to…
A third of the way into JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, I couldn’t take the technical and continuity errors any more and returned the book to the library. My sister, however, told me to keep going because the end would be worth it. So I did…sort of. I listened to the audio book–and LOVED it. Jim Dale, the narrator, was simply amazing. Dale did 146–that’s right, 146–different voices for the Harry Potter series and he brought the story more to life for me than did the movies. Apparently, many other people agree with me because he won two Grammy Awards for his work. Thus began my love affair with audio books.
However, not all narrators are created equal and after going through a slew of titles, I decided I prefer reading words on paper…or iPod Touch screen. And I still can’t listen to sex scenes read out loud; they make me…well, uncomfortable, like I’m invading someone’s privacy. I guess I’m more conservative in this aspect than I thought. Thus, I restrict audio books to children’s books–and anything narrated by Neil Gaiman because that man has one sexy, sexy voice.
I became interested in Dennis Lehane’s books because I love the movies based on them: Mystic River, Gone, Baby, Gone, and Shutter Island. While predictable, they’re moody, tautly plotted, and thought-provoking. I love how the atmosphere and locales in each of his works are treated as characters and not just backdrop.
I read Gone, Baby, Gone, enjoyed the sparse writing, and decided to try something more current: The Given Day.
Set in Boston at the end of the First World War, Dennis Lehane’s eighth novel unflinchingly captures the political and social unrest of a nation caught at the crossroads between past and future. The Given Day tells the story of two families—one black, one white—swept up in a maelstrom of revolutionaries and anarchists, immigrants and ward bosses, Brahmins and ordinary citizens, all engaged in a battle for survival and power. Beat cop Danny Coughlin, the son of one of the city’s most beloved and powerful police captains, joins a burgeoning union movement and the hunt for violent radicals. Luther Laurence, on the run after a deadly confrontation with a crime boss in Tulsa, works for the Coughlin family and tries desperately to find his way home to his pregnant wife.
Here, too, are some of the most influential figures of the era—Babe Ruth; Eugene O’Neill; leftist activist Jack Reed; NAACP founder W. E. B. DuBois; Mitchell Palmer, Woodrow Wilson’s ruthless Red-chasing attorney general; cunning Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge; and an ambitious young Department of Justice lawyer named John Hoover.
Coursing through some of the pivotal events of the time—including the Spanish Influenza pandemic—and culminating in the Boston Police Strike of 1919, The Given Day explores the crippling violence and irrepressible exuberance of a country at war with, and in the thrall of, itself. As Danny, Luther, and those around them struggle to define themselves in increasingly turbulent times, they gradually find family in one another and, together, ride a rising storm of hardship, deprivation, and hope that will change all their lives.
Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? I was all set to read it, until I saw the page count: 720. Whoa. The book actually weighs 1.2 pounds. That’s right: 1.2 pounds. (I would’ve gotten the electronic version, but Harper Collins likes DRM and I refuse to buy e-books with DRM.) No way was I going to risk carpal tunnel for a book. Instead, I got the audio book from the library. I was a little wary because the narrator is Michael Boatman. To me, Michael Boatman will always be the good-looking black guy on Spin City. Then I started listening and I became immersed. TGD includes African-American, Irish, Irish-American, Italian, and Italian-American men and women and Boatman created different and engaging voices for every one of them. He’s a seasoned actor and it, er, shows because many times I found myself thinking I’m listening to an entire cast of different voice actors, but it’s all Boatman. The man injects more feeling and nuance into his voice than many actors can do with their entire bodies.
The story, while entertaining, is longer than it needs to be because TGD is Lehane’s attempt at a saga and I’m not one for sagas. (I readily admit I didn’t enjoy Gone with the Wind.) However, I don’t mind the length of TGD as much as I could have because I can listen to Boatman all day.