Friday, March 30, 2012

We are the 55%!

I don't think I ever would have picked up the late J.G. Ballard's Millennium People if it weren't for the Audiobook Jukebox. I'd never read anything by him (although I enjoyed the movie version of his Empire of the Sun), but I was intrigued by the book's description -- what could be better than a middle class Occupy movement, before there was an Occupy movement? Ballard's book was originally published in 2003, but was not available until last year in this country. I hope he's congratulating himself on his prescience, wherever he is. Plus, he writes one of the greatest lines of recent memory: "The next revolution will be about parking."

Psychologist David Markham is preparing for a brief business trip to Florida with his second wife. As they are waiting for their taxi to Heathrow (pronounced with stress on the second syllable), the television reports a bombing in the baggage claim area. Markham is shocked to see his first wife's body on the television, one of the bombing's few victims. The police seem to have no leads, so Markham decides to do some investigating of his own. Arrested during a cat show, at his arraignment he meets Kay Churchill, a film instructor who -- among other things -- encourages her students to make pornography. Kay introduces David to the residents of the upscale Chelsea Marina development (I'm thinking it's something like Canary Wharf but on the other end of London). Led by Kay, and a creepy former pediatrician named Richard Gould, Chelsea Marina has gone on strike. Residents have stopped paying the bills, and there have been several confrontations with police.

Markham gets pulled in almost despite himself -- he begins an affair with Kay and ventures out with her and Gould on more dangerous forms of protest: bombing the National Film Theatre, among other places. He learns of Gould's unsavory history, and begins to suspect he could be related to the Heathrow bombing. Soon he finds himself on the run from the police, or is he?

For all its currency, this is definitely a British book, not inscrutable by any means, but definitely with a flavor that feels slightly foreign. The Chelsea Marina protestors are ridiculous in their middle-class unhappiness and Ballard shows no pity in satirizing them. Along with its black humor, it seemed infused with British reserve -- despite the inflammatory behavior of some of its characters -- particularly that of its narrator. It ended with a whimper. ("The Hollow Men" almost kept me from my English major, god! Eliot is dense! [not intellectually, of course]) The resolution came as no surprise, but at the same time, it really didn't make sense. Of course, this could be Ballard's intent, does anything that has happened in this new millennium actually make sense?

Narrator David Rintoul, whom I've only seen on Masterpiece (Theatre) shows but never heard, is pretty much the embodiment of David Markham, who -- even though he claims to be seeking out his first-wife's killers -- is really more acted upon than acting. Rintoul portrays him bored, superior, and unruffled. And while I agree with Rintoul's interpretation of this character, I wished for a slightly livelier response to such events as escaping from a burning building, learning that his wife is sleeping with a colleague, or facing a gun held by the unstable Richard Gould. Rintoul handles his narrator duties well -- he differentiates between characters without dramatic voicing, he reads quickly and clearly and his deep voice is very pleasant to listen to.

I feel pretty schizophrenic about Millennium People, which -- again -- is probably how Ballard wants me to feel (sneaky guy!). The person who is telling us this story is a nonentity in the center -- everything we learn is filtered through him -- he's deliberately uninteresting. Yet, the ideas are big here and when the novel ends with nothing actually resolved (except that the protestors go back to quietly paying their mortgages and Markham back to his upper-class neurotic clients), it ends up being me -- the reader -- who continues to ponder those ideas. So, I'm still thinking about it, but I didn't like it much.

AudioGO and the Audiobook Jukebox provided me a copy of the Millennium People through the Solid Gold Reviewer program. I appreciate their generosity along with that of all the other publishers who participate. Makes me feel quite special.

[My cats, Adele and Dodger, would never qualify for any cat show, but they are so cute -- and I couldn't think of anything else to illustrate this story -- that here they are. Thank you for bearing with a doting mother.]

Millennium People by J.G. Ballard
Narrated by David Rintoul
AudioGo 2011, 8:46

Friday, March 23, 2012

You can go home again

The only reason (right now the only reason) I would consider getting an e-book reader would be to avoid book overpacking while out of town. You know book overpacking: You're going away for five days, so you pack six books just in case you run out of something to read (horrors!).

Sorry, I'm going to digress here because I still remember the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach: I ran out of reading material in Hawaii in 2006, having finished Here Be Dragons (which I didn't like very much) the night before leaving. I had a good six hours of flying to get back to Portland. No worries ... I'll find something at the airport, but I soon discovered the Maui airport is not the Portland airport where there's a fully stocked Powell's Books! I spy a newstand with a metal rack of books and I am despairing, panicking ... omg is my only choice Danielle Steel?? I find it, at the bottom, behind Danielle Steel ... Carl Hiaassen! Skinny Dip! I had never read any of his adult books before, but since then, Hiaassen has pretty much become my gold-standard for what to read while flying.

Anyway, the e-reader. Good for always having something to read (if you can actually find something to read in your library's way-oversubscribed e-book service).

So that's the long way of saying that I recently had the nothing-to-read problem with audiobooks (that is so ridiculous a statement that I must explain the extenuating circumstances ... I needed something short to take up the few listening hours before I went on vacation). Fortunately, I'm now working in a library building where it's just a short trip downstairs to some fully stocked shelves. And that's how I came to listen to Edwidge Danticat's Krik? Krak! (Is there something a little off with a blog post that mentions both Edwidge Danticat and Danielle Steel?)

Krik? Krak! is a collection of nine short stories about contemporary Haitians. Haitians who endured the privation and fear of the Duvaliers' military dictatorship, Haitians who attempted to escape the island, and Haitians who did escape and resettled in the United States. The stories are mostly about women, as their men often did not survive. The title derives from Haitian storytellers, who will begin their tales by asking their audience Krik? (pronounced creek) [do you want to hear?]. The audience enthusiastically shouts Krak! (pronounced crahk) [speak!]. It is women, Danticat says, who must ensure that the stories -- the truth about the regime's horrors -- are passed on.

Four of the stories really stuck with me. Two are lengthy, and tell an involved story of families and relationships. In "Children of the Sea," a man and a woman each relate the story of their separation -- he is on a leaky boat hoping to make it to Florida, she has fled the capitol with her parents. Their love story will break your heart. The final story (almost a novella) is "Caroline's Wedding," and is your classic tale of immigrant parents insisting that cultural traditions be maintained by their Americanized children. Grace's younger sister is marrying a Bahamian, and their mother is taking steps to ensure that it doesn't happen. While preparing for Caroline's wedding, Grace tells us the story of how her parents emigrated from Haiti, but were unable to leave the traditions behind.

Two other stories are these little gems, snapshots almost, of a moment in time. "A Wall of Fire Rising" tells the story of Guy and his family, whom he can't support. Guy sees a hot-air balloon and longs for the freedom of flight. Freedom is not what Guy finds. Princesse meets a sophisticated artist, Catherine, visiting her homeland in "Seeing Things Simply." Catherine asks young Princesse to model nude for her, but then leaves without saying goodbye. Princesse may become an artist too.

The true power of these stories lies in Danticat's language, which has the rhythm and lushness of a tropical place, a place where voodoo holds as much sway as the Catholic Church (often right alongside the Catholic Church), a place where everyone suffers the indignities of want or persecution. I appreciated the order of the stories -- which start in Haiti and gradually include the influence of the United States until they finally take place entirely in the U.S., only to have the last story touch briefly on the events of the first one. Despite the misery Danticat describes to us, we feel hopeful by the end.

Robin Miles and Dion Graham narrate here. Miles, a narrator I've never heard before, does the lion's share of the work and she is very good, skillfully using her voice to deliver all the pain and sorrow and odd moments of joy that Danticat's women experience. I particularly enjoyed her work as Grace, the quiet older sister of "Caroline's Wedding." Graham narrates just three of the stories, but his longing for his lover in "Children of the Sea" and Guy's despair, hopelessness, and impatience with his wife and son in "A Wall of Fire Rising" are vivid. Both readers use accented English to tell some of the stories -- both in dialogue and in the narrative portions, and they sound at ease with the French and the Creole patois.

Danticat concludes her collection with "Epilogue: Women Like Us" where I think she is aligning herself with the women of her stories. She is assuming the responsibility of sustaining their history. Reminding us that their stories are our stories. She describes writing: "It's like braiding your hair. Taking a handful of coarse strands and attempting to bring them unity." Beauty, I might also say. Danticat has succeeded in making some pretty good braids.

[The top photograph is of vodou paraphernalia for sale in Port-au-Prince's Marché en Fer. It was taken by Doron and retrieved from Wikimedia Commons. The braiding is titled, "Culture exchange on Playa del Alcudia, Mallorca, Spain, 2009." It was taken by Bengt Nyman and also retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.]

Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat
Narrated by Dion Graham and Robin Miles
Recorded Books, 2007. 5:00

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A credit to her race

Christopher Paul Curtis came to "lecture" at my library in 2002. I put lecture in quotes, because he didn't stand behind a podium and read some notes, he grabbed a microphone, roamed the small dais with dreadlocks flying and answered question after question from excited young readers. (Often it was the same question and he was pretty patient ... for a while.) He was like a rock star and I suspect that for a fair number of those readers he was the first black person they ever saw who wrote books. I loved it. I loved Bud, Not Buddy too. Even though I couldn't remember who Deza Malone was (it's been 10 years since I read about Bud Caldwell), I was looking forward to The Mighty Miss Malone. Who would not want to meet that girl on the cover?

Deza kissed Bud when they met in a Hooverville outside of Flint, Michigan. If this scene is reprised in the recent book, I just do not remember hearing it. Curtis was asked by more than one young reader (maybe he was even asked this in Portland) to write a story about Deza. And so he did.

Deza (pronounced DEH-zah) lives with her loving family in Depression-era Gary, Indiana. Her father, Roscoe, calls her his Dar. Daught. Deza. He explains to her the faint praise of being a credit to her race, and why Joe Louis is such a hero to black people. Deza's the smartest kid in her class and she never misses an opportunity to let everyone know. Her heart is good, but she just loves the sound of her own voice. She believes that she can solve all problems that face her. Her family is poor, but they seem to be getting by -- except for the fact that her father's been out of work for a while and her older brother seems to have stopped growing and Deza's teeth are so riddled with cavities that she holds camphor-soaked cloth between them to manage the pain.

Overwhelmed by his inability to provide for his family, Roscoe takes an ill-fated fishing trip on Lake Michigan and disappears. When he is found in a hospital in Chicago, he is not the same man. Soon after coming home, her father leaves again -- declaring that he will find work in his hometown of Flint. Before Roscoe leaves, though, Deza overhears him say that he can't bear to breathe when close to Deza, her breath smells so rotten.

Deza and her family eventually head to Flint as well. They get there by riding the rails and then settling in the Hooverville while her mother looks for work and for her husband. Older brother Jimmie -- who has a beautiful singing voice -- soon disappears as well. Deza wonders if her family will ever be together and happy again.

As I reread what I've written, I see that I've provided a weak synopsis and no flavor at all of Curtis' trademark humor and compassion. (I'm on vacation, if that's an excuse.) Deza is funny and her narrative is full of some delightful malapropisms (all of which are written down on a piece of paper where I am not) -- the only one I remember is her describing her brother as "disillusional." She has a devil sitting on her shoulder telling her to do things she knows she shouldn't in a very funny voice. But, round about the time her father disappears, we begin to lose Deza as a heroine -- her humor, smarts, and generally sunny outlook gradually vanish, the coincidences mount up, and the book kind of limps to a close.

The excellent Bahni Turpin narrates Deza's story. She reads the novel with the right amount of smarts and with a busybody-ness that's perfect for this 12-year-old know-it-all. When Deza begins doubting herself, she tells us that she grinds her teeth together so that she feels what must be horrific pain, I hear that in Turpin's narration. The novel's other emotional moments -- most particularly when Deza's father says goodbye to his family -- are beautifully rendered.

There is an interesting cast of characters that includes gangsters, molls, hobos, librarians (from whom, I'm embarrassed to say, the credit-to-your-race comment comes), policemen, and more. Turpin creates varied and authentic sounding voices for them all. When she voices Deza's "devil," it's with a gangster-type voice that is the aural equivalent of that cartoon with the forked tail. I have a quibble about Turpin's rapid abandonment of the lisp that Deza's father acquires when his front teeth are knocked out during his misadventure on the lake, but I'm willing to entertain the possibility that Curtis simply stopped writing the lisp into Roscoe's dialogue.

Curtis quietly reads both his dedication (where he describes aharuf, an East African word describing something that makes you grin like a jackass [in a good way]) and an author's note that is a little less engaging. Curtis wants Deza Malone to remind us of the 15-million children living in poverty when he wrote the book (that number is another million higher today according to the source he cites, the National Poverty Center). While his heart is in the right place, he sounds a little hectoring and I didn't like that it was the last thing I heard about Deza.

While I was listening to Miss Malone, I was reading a book which took place at the exact same time -- 1936-1937 -- called A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper. (I was reading it because the second book in this series caught my eye as a listening candidate, and -- as you know -- I must read in order.) Cooper's book might be called a fantasy, since it takes place in an imagined country, but its setting -- Europe on the brink of World War II -- is as real as Curtis' Hooverville. What first struck me as I absorbed both books was how different their settings were and how the world could be engaged in two such disparate things at the same time. But then I copped to their similarities -- each is a small universe of a close family inside a larger world that is breaking down around them and all too soon we'll see that collapse affect that family. And I was struck again at how much I like historical fiction and its ability to make connections, how much Deza Malone has in common with the Princess of Montmaray, Sophie FitzOsborne. How much I am connected with a child living in poverty today.

OK, Mr. Curtis, I get it. Thanks.

[The photograph is an image of a Hooverville right here in Portland, Oregon. It was taken in 1936 by Arthur Rothstein and is in the Library of Congress' American Memory collection, from where it was retrieved.]

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis
Narrated by Bahni Turpin
Listening Library, 2012. 7:54

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Assume nothing

Author Daniel Silva is waiting for the right director, screenwriter and star before he lets his brooding, sexy, Israeli spy, Gabriel Allon, loose in a cinematic way. Allon has all the requirements of a film spook -- good-looking in a graying rugged sort of way, great in bed (although monogamous with his beautiful, younger second wife), handy with a weapon, durable, a tragic past and he's got a career on the side that lets us know that he's more than an assassin. (He restores paintings.) For the moment, we'll just have to live with Allon in print (and in our ears). It's a good thing there's almost a dozen of his books to cuddle up with.

I'm on number 8: Moscow Rules. It sets up pretty much the same as all the ones that went before: Gabriel retires to a villa in Umbria and begins work on a painting from the Vatican. (He's tight with the Pope's right-hand man.) His boss from the Office pays a visit to ask him to take a day to meet with a journalist in Rome. The journalist claims to have knowledge of a sale by a Russian arms dealer to Al-Qaeda. It all goes belly-up, the journalist dies in Gabriel's arms and he's reluctantly (natch) pulled into an operation to connect with the only other person who knows about the sale. He finds this person in Moscow (before he's hauled off for interrogation in Lubyanka Prison) and she tells him her source -- Elena, the wife of the arms dealer, Ivan Kharkov.

Gabriel concocts an elaborate meet involving a painting by Mary Cassatt (I always enjoy how his art background enables his spying), and convinces Elena to help them. We spend a few blissful days on the French Riviera before we're hauled back to Moscow for a violent, exciting -- if a little tired -- denouement. A bit of a deus ex machina shows up at the end to rescue everyone. That was a bit much!

Now, don't mistake me -- I enjoy these novels (I keep reading 'em.). Spy novels are not my usual cup of tea, but Gabriel's enough of a tortured hero that he remains interesting to me. They're formulaic, and this installment seemed particularly so. Could that be because I listened? I'm thinking yes. All the creakiness of the formula -- the dialogue reminding you of things that have gone before, the explanations of global politics, the trite descriptions of the glamorous locations and people -- lays baldly out there when someone is reading to you. When you read to yourself they are easy to gloss over. Not so much with audio.

I'd never listened to the narrator before, Phil Gigante. He has a deep, rich voice that he uses to great effect when voicing Gabriel's dialogue. Gabriel feels things deeply, but never loses his cool and this is evident in Gigante's characterization. This being an international spy novel, there are many, many characters speaking with various accents -- American, English, French, Russian, Israeli. As far as I could tell, everyone was consistently voiced, but ultimately it all sounded like a comedy act. The accents mostly sounded authentic to me (I'm really not a judge), but the Russians and Israelis began to blend together, and the French seemed off. The women were overly breathy and femmy and that -- coupled with their accents -- made them seem particularly caricatured. Only Gabriel comes across like a real person.

Gigante fares better in the novel's narrative portions. He speeds through the descriptions in his melodious voice and knows how to build tension when Gabriel finds himself in a sticky spot or two.

I like to try everything on audio at least once, but some things just don't work for me. It'll be back to the books for Gabriel Allon. I might try Gigante again, just in something a little less formulaic.

Evidently, there are real Moscow Rules, of which my post title is one. But can you believe what you find on the internet?

[Gabriel forges a copy of a Mary Cassatt in order to meet Elena Kharkov. It's probably not this Children Playing on the Beach hanging in the National Gallery, but the subject is similar. This image was retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.]

Moscow Rules (Gabriel Allon, Book 8) by Daniel Silva
Narrated by Phil Gigante
Brilliance Audio, 2008. 10:00

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Theirs not to reason why

Min Green and Ed Slaterton are teens you want to know. They're smart (maybe a little too smart), they're funny, they have wide interests, and they seem to spend very little time interacting with electronic devices. A mobile phone is mentioned only once that I recall and they barely seem to be aware of television and the internet. Why We Broke Up: except for the part where Ed breaks Min's heart, it's every girl's (dare I say women's?) fantasy. The opportunity to tell him what you think -- with great wit, pathos, and for as long as you want to talk about it. A book-length esprit de l'escalier. An entirely enjoyable esprit de l'escalier.

Unless you simply know nothing about books for teens, you know that Why We Broke Up was written by Daniel Handler (nom de plume Lemony Snicket) and lavishly (like it was a picture book) illustrated by Maira Kalman. It recently won a Printz Honor. In the book, Min Green -- high-school junior and art-film geek -- is writing a long letter to Ed Slaterton -- high-school senior and basketball star. Along with the letter, she's returning a number of objects she acquired during their short (about six weeks) relationship. Describing the objects and why they are meaningful allow her to tell the story of how they met and why they broke up. Min is a delightfully unreliable narrator, but she's pretty honest too. She has a way with words that can't be beat, and all this listener wanted to do was keep listening to her authentically sounding teen girl voice, learn how those objects piled up, and experience the story of Min and Ed's romance. When Ed betrays Min, my heart broke as well.

I rarely write quotations down while I'm listening, since I don't always have a pen/paper handy. But I kept a copy of the book around, so I could look at Kalman's pictures (the downloadable audiobook included an e-book of the images, but this expired before I got around to listening), and I made note of one sentence that just struck me. Min is at her best-friend (and soulmate, of course) Al's house and they are tiptoeing around the subject of whether Min will have sex for the first time with Ed. "His house got quiet the way every room does with the word sex, even the jazz musicians [playing on the stereo] leaning forward in the hopes of hearing it through the speakers even as they kept playing." [page 186]

In addition to that -- and many more -- drop-dead gorgeous metaphor, Handler makes up movies (both arty and cineplex-y), movie stars, jazz musicians, recipes and all manner of cultural references that sound completely real. The whole thing makes up this pretty perfect package of teen literature. Handler's understanding of teen girls is uncanny.

He is aided in his characterization by the novel's narrator, Khristine Hvam (silent h, rhymes with bam). She is pretty darn perfect as Min. She captures Min's superior intellect along with her superiority, yet is as capable of showing her insecurities. We have no doubt that Min is completely captivated by Ed, Hvam is nearly giddy in several places. And when Min learns what Ed has done, her devastation is palpable. There aren't very many other characters in the novel -- a few friends of Min, a few ex-girlfriends of Ed -- and Hvam portrays them distinctly and authentically. There are absolutely no vapid Valley Girls here, I'm pleased to report.

Hvam also has to narrate very long passages (long sentences too, I think) where Min philosophizes about the objects, the relationship, old movies, etc. that have the potential to drag down the narration. But she consistently produces enough variety in these sections (pacing, vocal effects and the like) that they remain entertaining.

The audiobook has sound effects as Min tosses her objects into the box that she's delivering to Ed's door. Some of the objects can make a distinctive sound (a condom wrapper), while others (a tea towel) are just kind of generic, and tell you that something else has ended up in the box. I think I could have done without them, but they are brief and don't really interrupt the flow of the storytelling.

There's also a phone interview between Hvam, Handler and Kalman. The sound quality is really bad, and one of them has a TV going in the background which was deeply distracting. But, the three of them are so entertaining that -- in the end -- these things don't matter. While Hvam asks unsurprising questions, the answers are frequently hilarious enough that it doesn't feel like one of those interviews ("How did you get your ideas?"). Handler and Kalman came up with idea of a break-up novel while having American cheese sandwiches at the Bologna Book Fair. What could be better than that?

In a brilliant bit of cross-marketing, Handler and Kalman created the Why We Broke Up Project where readers and others can post their break-up stories. This includes you ... and occasionally Daniel will respond. (In a downpour, you turned to me and said, "I don't really think this umbrella was made for two." Daniel responds: Relationships are like umbrellas -- too many of them are made cheaply and fall apart when the first cloud appears.) And in other news (old?), Lemony Snicket has chimed in with a few observations on Occupy Wall Street, from a discreet distance of course.

[The sugar dispenser that Min and Ed steal from the diner (because sugar tastes sweeter if it's stolen) is one of Maira Kalman's illustrations. This image was retrieved from a slideshow at the Huffington Post. I wish the egg cuber had been on offer.]

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
Narrated by Khristine Hvam
Hachette Audio, 2011. 6:33

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Ride 'em cowboy!

Thanks again to the Plano Public Library (this time it was the Gladys Harrington Library) for meeting my Interlibrary Loan needs with a copy of the 2012 Odyssey Honor book, Ghetto Cowboy, by G. Neri. The title and cover of this book have an old-fashioned feel that made me a little apprehensive, but I needn't have worried. This is an up-to-date, gritty story with lots of teen appeal (except that ... does that ho-hum title and straightforward cover keep teens from checking it out?) about a horse and his boy.

Cole has grown up on the mean streets of Detroit with his single mom, when his lackadaisical school attendance and edgy friends push her too far. She sticks him in the car and begins driving (into the sunset, which -- I have to say -- did throw me a little bit) to Philadelphia where Cole's father, whom Cole has never met, lives. As his mother deposits him in the midst of some rundown houses and a bunch of strangers, a horse bursts out into the street. His mother's car collides with the horse, and Cole gets his first glimpse of his father, pulling out a gun and shooting the injured horse dead.

Cole learns that his father adopts the Philadelphia horses (racehorses and carriage horses) that are destined for dogfood. Instead, Harper (whose got a bit of horse whisperer in him) rehabilitates the horses by offering to the neighborhood's disaffected youth the opportunity to care for the beasts. The city wants to shut down Harper's makeshift stables, so the property can be "renewed" into a condo development that no one living in the North Philadelphia neighborhood will be able to afford. To that end, it stopped collecting the horseshit weeks ago, and now Cole is expected to contribute to that steaming pile as he reluctantly takes on the responsibility of a skittish horse he names Boo.

The conflict with the city comes to a head over the next few days and Cole (who learns he was named for the saxophonist John Coltrane) calls upon reserves he didn't know he had to save Boo and begin to mend fences with his father. Here the novel gets a little preachy and the package ties up a little too neatly, but the fascinating subject matter makes the lessons go down pretty easy. Neri was inspired by actual urban cowboys in North Philadelphia and his website is chockful of links and other information about these men and boys (probably girls too).

Neri writes in a vernacular speech that sounds how many African American kids (and others) speak today. The subject don't agree with the verb in many cases and the speech is littered with unique vocabulary. It seems an honest portrayal of a Detroit-bred pre-teen boy. The narrator JD Jackson (heard most recently here) sounds completely natural voicing Cole as well as the novel's many other characters. If his voice sounds a little mature, he more than makes up for it with a youthful rhythm and streetwise inflections.

I enjoyed Jackson's vocal portrayals of the novel's three adult males -- Cole's dad Harper and two old crusty guys who provide Cole with some African American history and the tradition of the black cowboy. It was a revelation then, to hear Jackson alter his delivery to give a white newscaster (well, maybe newscaster voices are pretty easy) one authentic-sounding line. It's a subtle shift, but the racial difference is clear.

Closing thoughts:
  • Of the two Odyssey audiobooks I've recently listened to, both featured a boy who'd never met his father; and once he meets the man discovers that he's living in pretty disgusting, particularly odoriferous digs. The other Odyssey I heard featured a mouse who frequented a compost pile. It must all mean something.
  • I'm pleased to report that the 99 tracks that always annoy me in Brilliance audiobooks were nowhere to be found, as each disc stopped at a cool 15-18 tracks.
[The artist Jesse Joshua Watson illustrated the novel, and this image is from his website. I never saw a copy of the book, so I'm assuming this is Harper calming Boo.]

Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri
Narrated by JD Jackson
Brilliance Audio, 2011. 4:10