Lincoln in the Bardo

Thoughts  by George Saunders, Random House Audio 2017, 7 hrs 25 mins

Audiobook  narration by a long list of people!

MOTIVATION for READING:  LISTENING:  I couldn’t resist the high praise and curiosity of so many narrators.

Let’s start this nutty review with my suggestions. IF you think you want to do the audio – and I DO suggest you listen to this if you love audiobooks – I must insist on two things,

  1. Read the list of which person reads which character, and
  2. Know what Op. Cit. means. You’ll hear it and if you are like me, you’ll hear the word ‘UPSET’ rather and you’ll be distracted.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: Oh, one more thing… KNOW THIS!!! I do think one should KNOW a bit about this book and its format before one embarks. I don’t think going blind or just knowing that it is about Lincoln and his dealing with Willie’s death is enough. I think you might best understand the use of the historical quotes and what/how Mr. Saunders lays out in the telling. Thus, we return to the “Op.Cit.”

I was so wrong to go in blind to this. I think I had read the synopsis way back long time ago and so I was helluva confused at the beginning. I was easily distracted,

so…
If you think attempting to identify which celebrity is speaking which part will be a distraction, I can solve that for you – read on.

I’m sure if I had read this first I would have waded in with more success; do read this from iTunes:

Description

The long-awaited first novel from the author of Tenth of December: a moving and original father-son story featuring none other than Abraham Lincoln, as well as an unforgettable cast of supporting characters, living and dead, historical and invented. February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth,” the president says at the time. “God has called him home.” Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns, alone, to the crypt several times to hold his boy’s body. From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state—called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo—a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul. Lincoln in the Bardo is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a testament to fiction’s ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?

The 166-person full cast features award-winning actors and musicians, as well as a number of Saunders’ family, friends, and members of his publishing team, including, in order of their appearance: Nick Offerman as HANS VOLLMAN David Sedaris as ROGER BEVINS III Carrie Brownstein as ISABELLE PERKINS George Saunders as THE REVEREND EVERLY THOMAS Miranda July as MRS. ELIZABETH CRAWFORD Lena Dunham as ELISE TRAYNOR Ben Stiller as JACK MANDERS Julianne Moore as JANE ELLIS Susan Sarandon as MRS. ABIGAIL BLASS Bradley Whitford as LT. CECIL STONE Bill Hader as EDDIE BARON Megan Mullally as BETSY BARON Rainn Wilson as PERCIVAL “DASH” COLLIER Jeff Tweedy as CAPTAIN WILLIAM PRINCE Kat Dennings as MISS TAMARA DOOLITTLE Jeffrey Tambor as PROFESSOR EDMUND BLOOMER Mike O’Brien as LAWRENCE T. DECROIX Keegan-Michael Key as ELSON FARWELL Don Cheadle as THOMAS HAVENS and Patrick Wilson as STANLEY “PERFESSER” LIPPERT with Kirby Heyborne as WILLIE LINCOLN, Mary Karr as MRS. ROSE MILLAND, and Cassandra Campbell as Your Narrator.

The only voice I recognized was Offerman’s in the beginning — I thought he was Abraham Lincoln (nope, just reading his thoughts) but I eventually was able to connect voice to character and get lost into the story. I had Sedaris’ voice as some other actor I cannot name off the top of my head but I eventually connected voice with Bevans. I picked out Susan Sarandon’s voice right away but the rest – couldn’t identify. (I was never any good at picking the callers on Frasier, either). I am SO glad I found this list! (when I was about 3/4 done). I hope it helps you if you think you might need it.

Or read any of the many wonderful reviews and explanations that I’m finding NOW after I attempted the thing…  Audible has a good review or two, Goodreads has some, too.

WHAT’s GOOD:  A lot to admire here. The phrasing, the wording! Poetic, emphatic, bursting with imagery. I guess the best I can say is that this is a work is art. Writing is truly a creative artistic endeavor and Lincoln in the Bardo is one of the best examples of the art of literature that I’ve enjoyed of late. It’s funny at times, shocking at times, so very very sad sometimes. It has rhythm like music and inspires emotion like a beautiful painting.

But was it really that good? Am I adding to a hype that is starting to saturate the lit-osphere? I don’t know. I really wonder about whether I was ‘getting it’ about 1/3 in but by the end of it, I was mesmerized.

I am considering a re-listen and maybe I will buy the print. I suggest you take a long car trip and enjoy. My 10 minute commute to work twice a day didn’t cut it.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I think it might be a masterpiece. If you read the print and loved it, I think you might next want to hear it. It’s lyrical, it’s creative. It’s affecting.

RATING: Five slices of pie.

 

 

pierating

Copyright © 2007-2017. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.
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Re-Reading The Book Thief

Some more thoughts…   The Book Thief by Mark Zusak, Alfred A Knopf New York 2007 (imprint of Random House Children’s Books).  Originally published in Australia 2005 by Picador, an imprint of Pan Macmillan Pty Ltd, Sydney; 550 pages.

Since this is a re-read and not even one that I had picked for the Re-Reading / Flashback Challenge but one that I picked up again because my IRL bookclub chose it for this month’s selection, and now having rambled into some kind of extensive sentence of which I cannot seem to grasp a good way to wrap up, may I point you to my original review  thoughts post on the first time I read this awesome book?      From eleven months ago…

I STILL love this book.

I have not been the kind of person that re-reads books.    This was partly due to my being much more motivated to read new-to-me books — all those classics that I’ve always thought I *should* read or hot new titles that beckon with pushy enthusiasm.    I never read for “comfort.”     I hate to know what is going to happen.

But then I re-read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I had always adored my first-read experience with CS Lewis’  The Chronicles of Narnia and  I wanted it fresh in my mind when the movie came out.

I was so disappointed.   I can’t remember what exactly I was disappointed by but do know that it had lost its magic.   I was then shattered and so sad.   I felt that I had RUINED my memory of the joy of discovering the world of Narnia.      I vowed never to re-read a book again.

Until I decided that such a stance was silly.

And along came this year’s re-read challenge and I thought I would try the concept again.

AND…   The Book Thief. I still think it is full of awesomeness.     And I bawled my eyes out.

[from early in the book, page 80:]

She was the book thief without the words.

Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like the rain.

[updated about five minutes after posting this post to add that I’m just now reading Zusak’s thoughts at the end of the book and I’m crying again!]

HIdeinWhitetoSkipLine

Copyright © 2010. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Books in My Future

I thought I would quickly list off the books I know I want to read in the next few months;  some to finish challenges and some to start new challenges.   This list is more for me to help me get organized – my book to-do list.

Dewey’s Reading Challenge
John Green’s Abundance of Katherines – have but loaned to my next door neighbor
John Green’s Paper Towns – need
The Virgin Blue / Tracy Chevalier – have in house
The Sea – John Banville – need

Science Challenge
I wanted to read a book about bees and have narrowed it to A Spring Without Bees:  How Colony Collapse Disorder Has Endangered Our Food Supply by Michael Schacker and Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honeybee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis by Rowan Jacobsen,   I’m hoping the library can find these.  I have yet to search.

I should finish my Einstein book, too.

Books I just want to read now ‘cuz’: The Mandarin and Other Stories by Eca De Queiroz (thanks Nymeth!) and Greenblatt’s Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare (thanks KB!)

Now, for upcoming commitments, I have officially and unofficially decided to read The Hobbit, Mrs. Dalloway and just maybe Moby Dick.   Of these, only MB is in the house.     I believe I said yes in Twitter to the Really Old Classics but honestly, I’m just a wimp.   But the book IS in my goodreads – unfortunately, I will have to order it.     The library, yes – even the I.L.L. – does not show it in the system: Two Zen Classics: The Gateless Gate and The Blue Cliff Records by Sekida, Katsuki.

Anyone care to talk me into any other challenges?     The Historical Fiction one, perhaps?     I could read Moby Dick for that, right?

Re-Reading is dejavu all over again

[Updated :    FLASHBACK CHALLENGE website is HERE!! 🙂     Buttons maybe sometime later.  ]

I’m challenging myself in 2010 to re-read a few books.

I never re-read books!

So.   Since Jenny seemed so upset to hear this, I decided I needed to try this strange experience with more study.  Besides, somebody somewhere said to really read a book, it must be in the second or third time.     (I’ll go look up that quote – I’m butchering it, I’m sure.   I think it was Nabokov.)

Here’s my list:

Mrs. Dalloway / Virginia Woolf

Wind, Sand and Stars – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (my review of reading it the first time)

Are You There God?  It’s Me, Margaret / Judy Blume

Jane Eyre – because I feel like I’m lying when I say I’ve read this but surely.  Surely!  I did read this already, right?   maybe not.   I can’t really remember.    I know I know the story, so let’s see if I can get through a ‘read’.

and… after finding out about a LOTR challenge, I’m considering diving into The Hobbit.

sigh

“Curiously enough, one cannot read a book: one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader. And I shall tell you why. When we read a book for the first time the very process of laboriously moving our eyes from left to right, line after line, page after page, this complicated physical work upon the book, the very process of learning in terms of space and time what the book is about, this stands between us and artistic appreciation. When we look at a painting we do not have to move our eyes in a special way even if, as in a book, the picture contains elements of depth and development. The element of time does not really enter in a first contact with a painting. In reading a book, we must have time to acquaint ourselves with it. We have no physical organ (as we have the eye in regard to a painting) that takes in the whole picture and then can enjoy its details. But at a second, or third, or fourth reading we do, in a sense, behave towards a book as we do towards a painting.”

-Nabokov’s Lecture on Literature

and another quote for you entertainment:

“Tell me what you read and I’ll tell you who you are” is true enough, but I’d know you better if you told me what you reread. ”
François Mauriac

Yea, I don’t think Frank would bother getting to know me very well.

pieratingsml

The official Challenge site offers up a few levels to commit to (My FIVE books fits into the Scholar level) and also suggests re-reading books from various time periods of your life:   childhood (AYTGIMM – first read in 1976 of 1977), high school (Jane Eyre – early 80’s), adulthood (Mrs. Dalloway – 2002 when I was prepping for the full The Hours movie experience).