“American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis (1991)
audio book narrated by Mick Landrum
As I have previously mentioned, I purchased several audio books when audible had a sale recently. I knew this book was a modern classic and I snapped it up for a bargain, feeling very virtuous that I was going to be able to tick another book on the next one of those silly “How Many of these 100 Books Have You Read?” quizzes on Facebook.
And then… then… I started listening…
This is definitely the most disturbing thing I have ever read. Largely because of how accurately it portrays the consumer-driven yuppie culture of the ’80s. You know, with some putridly graphic decapitation and violent sex scenes thrown in for shock value.
The novel reveals protagonist Patrick Bateman’s actions, morals (or lack thereof) and predilection for chopping people up and eating bits of them (maybe). He is an extremely wealthy merchant banker on Wall Street and there are hints that he has come from monied stock as well. The novel is a confronting stream-of-consciousness vomit of a book which I could not stop listening to, despite it being vile from beginning to end. I actually found myself several times with my hand over my mouth, chanting in my mind “they’re just made up words, they’re just made up words…”
Mummy. Don’t read this book. Susan. Read this book.
“Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of pilgrimage” by Haruki Murakami (translated to English 2014)
Translated by Philip Gabriel
Audio book narrated by Michael Fenton Stevens
Recently, I read “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” by Murakami and it inspired me to explore his fiction work. By coincidence (or fate, depending on your point of view), “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of pilgrimage” was on sale on audible.com.au so I bought it without reading a blurb or knowing anything about it. The title was certainly appealing and immediately made me think of Paulo Coelho, whose books have brought me pleasure over many years. I have since realised that I have Murakami’s book, 1Q84, waiting to be read on my shelf. It has been there for several years. It is a very big book so has been relegated over and over as it is an unappealing size for bedtime reading. It is now a lot more appealing, given how much I enjoyed this book.
“Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of pilgrimage”, as the title suggests, is the story of Tsukuru Tazaki. He is 36 and reflecting back on the consequences of being ostracized by his friendship group in his first year of college. The journey he takes to make peace with his past is told in an engaging and meaningful way. The narrative is quite lyrical and presents an opportunity to understand Japanese culture and practices in a way I didn’t expect. The characters are interesting and well-developed and I cared deeply for Tsukuru and his future.
My instinct about Murakami’s writing similarities with Coelho were well founded. This is a book I highly recommend.
“The Great Gatsby” by F Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
Audio book narrated by Jake Gyllenhaal
A few weeks ago I was motivated to buy some books on sale from audible.com.au. The incentive was a $20 voucher which I managed to forget to use before it expired. Sigh. One of the bargains to be had was The Great Gatsby, one of the very few books I have read many times.
This particular edition was attractive because of the narrator. There are two main reasons for this. First, I have found well-known narrators to be reliably impressive. Second, as I have previously blogged, first-person novels being narrated are extra lovely.
On the off chance that you are not already familiar with The Great Gatsby, it is the story of an enigmatic man, Jay Gatsby, told to us by his neighbour, Nick Carraway. In essence, it is a story of decadence. Of the frivolity of the rich. Of a summer where nothing much happens and everything changes.
I first read this book as a pre-teen, or perhaps only just a teen. It captured my imagination because it was a world so far removed from my reality. The idea of parties on the lawn and an endless summer and love lost… perfect fodder for an overly romantic girl.
Since then I have found comfort in reading it perhaps once every five years or so. I might not have bothered again except that it is now on the HSC Prescriptions list, set for study in Advanced Module A in Comparative Study of Texts, Elective 2: Intertextual Perspectives. It is set as a text to be studied beside a collection of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s sonnets. Sonnet 43 is the most famous of these and there is a very obvious link between the tone of consuming love in the sonnets and Jay Gatsby’s obsessive love for Daisy Buchanan.
I enjoyed listening to Gyllenhaal narrate and it was lovely to listen to a story I knew well. Maybe one day I might even consider teaching what has been described as ‘the great American novel’.