Tag Archives: george guidall

The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco

The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco, translated by Geoffrey Brock (unabridged audiobook read by George Guidall; 15 hrs on 13 discs): 60-year-old Yambo, an antiquarian book dealer, wakes up in a hospital with amnesia. He remembers everything he’s ever read, everyday things like how to shave, and a certain amount of history, but all his personal life experiences are gone. He doesn’t know who anyone is, or how anything tastes or feels, or any other memory with an emotional component. The first portion is largely a string of literary references that build on each other through word association. Eventually he returns to his childhood home to read old schoolbooks and comics in order to rediscover his own identity. His memory returns very gradually, so you have to be in it for the journey, not anticipating some Big Change at any point. To be honest, I was bored for a lot of this book. I didn’t understand a lot of the references, especially later when most of them were to WWII-era Italian propaganda. The amnesia concept was fresh – rediscovering tastes and smells, for example – and the actual memories turned out to be quite interesting, but for the most part I felt like I was slogging through a bunch of navel-gazing for which I had no context. I also never figured out what caused him to get the amnesia to begin with, but that may have been revealed at a time when I’d glazed over. I am quite certain many people would quite enjoy this book, but I appear to not be one of them.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel

Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel (unabridged audiobook read by George Guidall; 10 hrs 49 min on 9 discs): This is basically a biography of Galileo interspersed with letters from his devoted eldest daughter, a cloistered nun. The life story was of course quite fascinating, from his earliest publications to the trial by the Inquisition late in his life. His daughter’s letters, however, were less illuminating, consisting mostly of household minutiae and requests for money. Her repeated professions of love seemed to border on the passive aggressive, but I suppose that may have just been the translation. It’s too bad her father’s replies were lost; I would have liked to know what sorts of things he said to her. Still, this was a good overview of the life of a great man, and Sobel remains one of my favorite science writers.

A note on the audio: What can I say? It’s George Guidall. His name on a book guarantees it will be pleasantly listenable no matter what the subject matter. I know his voice well, and I appreciate that sort of consistency.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb

I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb (unabridged audiobook read by George Guidall; 32 hours 15 minutes on 28 discs): Dominick is angry, and has been his whole life. His identical twin brother has paranoid schizophrenia, the woman he loves divorced him, his girlfriend makes him crazy, his stepfather is abusive, and his mother died keeping the secret of his biological father’s identity. Our story begins in 1990 when Dominick’s brother Thomas cuts off his own hand in a public library, believing this sacrifice will somehow prevent the Gulf War. Believed to be a danger to himself and others, Thomas is placed in a maximum security mental institution. Thus begins Dominick’s journey to free his brother from his prison, confront his issues with his parents, and discover the truth about his family history. At first I couldn’t figure out why this book was so danged long, but I was soon drawn in by the characters and their stories. There’s a lot of drama here, a lot more than anything in my personal experience, but I never felt disconnected or disbelieving. The story-within-a-story told by Dominick’s grandfather was especially compelling, being told by such an unlikable narrator. Though it may be long and occasionally feels somewhat scattered, everything comes together in the end for a deeply satisfying conclusion. Dominick, Thomas, and the rest will stay with me for a very long time.

Unrelated aside: When I was in graduate school, my landlord was a skinny, bald, white guy in his late thirties. One day while he was in my bathroom working on the plumbing, he entered my apartment through the front door. Turns out he had an identical twin brother, but man was I confused at first. Because of this, despite loads of evidence to the contrary, I pictured Dominick and Thomas looking more or less like Moby. This is not, I suspect, at all what Lamb intended.

A note on the audio: George and I go way back. He’s not a reader I actively seek out, but he’s extremely talented and makes even the driest prose quite listenable. In short, he’s very reliable, which is fortunate since he’s read basically every book ever. (Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but not by much.) As always, he did a lovely job with these characters. I was a little confused when the book ended on disc 27, but there was a nice little interview between George and the author on disc 28. It’s an interesting session, mostly about the creative process, with a few questions about the story and characters answered by Lamb.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (unabridged audiobook read by George Guidall): I’d heard good things about the tale of Wang Lung’s life in preindustrial China and his rise from poor farmer to wealthy family man, but for one reason or another I’d never picked up a copy. Now I have, and though the plot was a touch slow at first, I must say it’s well worth the read. You learn quite a bit about the culture and lifestyle of the times without feeling like you’re reading a history book. And with Buck’s tender narration, even the most heinously primitive ideas – such as “woman” being synonymous with “slave” – came across more as The Way Things Were than something that stirred much righteous anger in me. Wang Lung and his wife O-Lan are very sympathetic, and there were times when I almost cried. Very moving, very educational, very memorable.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Marker by Robin Cook

Marker by Robin Cook (unabridged audiobook read by George Guidall): Healthy patients are dying mysteriously, and medical examiners Laurie Montgomery and Jack Stapleton are on the case. I liked the plot – I wasn’t able to guess the twists ahead of time and I learned a bit about medicine and the medical industry in the process – but some of the language got a little tedious. Perhaps doctors are different, but ordinary people do not regularly use that many four-syllable words per sentence. Cook also has an irritating habit of using “questioned” instead of “asked”, and having a character get impatient at the silence should there be a pause in the narration for a brief bit of description. Taking in someone’s appearance does not cause a noticeable lull in conversation. Most people’s brains work more quickly than that. Overall, however, it’s a pretty good story. I was indeed on the edge of my seat in parts (which is made worse in audiobooks since you can’t read faster to get to the resolution), and the ending was mostly satisfying. Not a deep or especially memorable read, but a nice diversion during my daily commute.

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