Tuesday, December 19, 2006

While traveling to visit my girlfriend’s folks in Pennsylvania this past weekend, I listened to a couple books-on-tape: Jeanette Winterson’s Weight, and Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation.

Susie Breck and Dick Hill nearly destroy Winterson's gorgeous prose with their horrific voices. Seriously. Were I not a diehard Winterson fan, I would have never finished listening. Aside from the ear-wrenching irritation from exposure to those two over-actors droning on in the most pretentious locutions, I truly felt a sharp twinge of embarrassment for Winterson. She could hardly be proud of what they've done to her lovely book. If it were my novel that they butchered, I would sue them and demand the publisher burn every existing copy. It doesn't make sense why Winterson just didn't read it herself, with her elegant British accent. A wordsmith of her caliber should never entrust her words to such disgusting amateurs. Luckily, even the most hideous of voices is no match for the splendor of Winterson's language. She is a literary gem. Her sentences are like ice cold sweet tea on the hottest day of summer. Here's an example:

"All the stories are here, silt-packed and fossil-stored. The book of the world opens anywhere, chronology is one method only and not the best. Clocks are not time. Even radioactive rock-clocks, even gut-spun DNA, can only tell time like a story."

If you’re in the mood for a retelling of the Atlas myth, you should certainly check out this slim volume; but under no circumstances should you listen to the audio recording!

You really can’t go wrong with an opening like, “One night last summer, all the killers in my head assembled on a stage in Massachusetts to sing show tunes.” Vowell is another writer who crafts choice sentences, which is especially important when attempting to make a book about the first three presidential assassinations interesting. I, for one, had little interest in the death of Lincoln, Garfield, or McKinley; but with her enthusiasm and artistry, Vowell pulled me into her obsession. Another good thing about this recording is that the author did it herself, which saves her from the destruction of Breck and Hill. Alongside Vowell’s little-girl voice, there are guest appearances by John Stewart, Conan O’Brian, Catherine Keener, Eric Bogosian, and loads of other people, who give life to these historical characters. As opposed to the Winterson, I would highly recommend this audio recording.

German artist Sonja Feldmeier gathered various people of different age, background, cultural and social affiliation, and asked them to describe the face of someone famous that they admired, for a new collection entitled Phantom OO. Using the same software that Criminal Investigation Departments use to produce composite sketches, she created these images:

Elvis Presley, Musician

Marylin Monroe, Actress

Captain Picard, Star Fleet Captain

Johnny Depp, Actor