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Four recent audiobooks I listened to, provided for review by Audible UK…
In this remarkable dual memoir, film legend Martin Sheen and accomplished actor/filmmaker Emilio Estevez recount their lives as father and son. In alternating chapters-and in voices that are as eloquent as they are different-they narrate stories spanning more than 50 years of family history, and reflect on their journeys into two different kinds of faith.
At 21, still a struggling actor living hand to mouth, Martin and his wife, Janet, welcomed their firstborn, Emilio, an experience of profound joy for the young couple, who soon had three more children: Ramon, Charlie, and Rene. As Martin’s career moved from stage to screen, the family moved from New York City to Malibu, while traveling together to film locations around the world, from Mexico for Catch-22 to Colorado for Badlands to the Philippines for the legendary Apocalypse Now shoot.
As the firstborn, Emilio had a special relationship with Martin: They often mirrored each other’s passions and sometimes clashed in their differences. After Martin and Emilio traveled together to India for the movie Gandhi, each felt the beginnings of a spiritual awakening that soon led Martin back to his Catholic roots, and eventually led both men to Spain, from where Martin’s father had emigrated to the United States.
Along the famed Camino de Santiago pilgrimage path, Emilio directed Martin in their acclaimed film, The Way, bringing three generations of Estevez men together in the region of Spain where Martin’s father was born, and near where Emilio’s own son had moved to marry and live.
With vivid, behind-the-scenes anecdotes of this multitalented father’s and son’s work with other notable actors and directors, Along the Way is a striking, stirring, funny story-a family saga that listeners will recognize as universal in its rebellions and regrets, aspirations and triumphs. Strikingly candid, searchingly honest, and full of the immediacy and warmth that can only be added by the authors reading their story in their own voices, this heartfelt portrait reveals two strong-minded, admirable men of many important roles, perhaps the greatest of which are as father and son.
This is a pretty interesting idea, as biographies go. Martin Sheen is also President Bartlet in The West Wing, so it was difficult to listen to his chapters and not feel like they were in some way a presidential pronouncement… After listening to this book, I realised that I’ve seen far less of both Sheen’s and Estevez’s movies than I originally thought. We get great accounts of the making of The Way (Estevez’s movie starring Sheen), and also Apocalypse Now – the movie that almost killed Sheen, and gave Estevez and Charlie Sheen quite the exciting and unusual experiences. There are a fair number of chapters that cover shared experiences, but also plenty that give us better insight into Martin’s upbringing and also Emilio’s solo projects. If you are interested in the work of either of them, then I highly recommend Along the Way. The audiobook is excellent, too, with great production.
a) A fatuous, wasted, degenerate and wholly useless existence captured in delicate, lyrical and exquisitely realised prose.
b) Lightly amusing anecdotes and tender reminiscences of the great men and women encountered during a rich, varied and rewarding lifetime, fondly remembered in the tranquil evening of a career of public service.
c) The autobiography of a dizzying life fuelled by the lust for power and the search for ever more degrading downward paths of repulsive sexual adventuring and self-destructive debaucheries: the unrepentant libertine author seeks revenge on his many enemies and tears the lid off the private life of blameless churchmen and librarians.
Fry`s autobiography is all and none of these. Too old to rock and roll, too young to die, the author looks back with bruising frankness at his life so far.
I finally got around to listening to Fry’s first biography – I really enjoyed The Fry Chronicles (which started me on my recent audio-biography binging road) and More Fool Me. This one focuses exclusively on his childhood, with the occasional mention of his work and colleagues/friends to come. It’s funny, honest, doesn’t sugar-coat his weaknesses and bad behaviour. He offers plenty of opinions on society, literature, schooling, Britain and so forth. Moab is My Washpot is a good listen, but I think the two follow up volumes are far superior.
In the mid-70s, Steve Martin exploded onto the comedy scene. By 1978 he was the biggest concert draw in the history of stand-up. In 1981 he quit forever. Born Standing Up is, in his own words, the story of “why I did stand-up and why I walked away”.
At age 10 Martin started his career at Disneyland, selling guidebooks in the newly opened theme park. In the decade that followed, he worked in the Disney magic shop and the Bird Cage Theatre at Knott’s Berry Farm, performing his first magic/comedy act a dozen times a week. The story of these years, during which he practiced and honed his craft, is moving and revelatory.
Martin illuminates the sacrifice, discipline, and originality that made him an icon and informs his work to this day. To be this good, to perform so frequently, was isolating and lonely. It took Martin decades to reconnect with his parents and sister, and he tells that story with great tenderness. Martin also paints a portrait of his times: the era of free love and protests against the war in Vietnam, the heady irreverence of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in the late 60s, and the transformative new voice of Saturday Night Live in the 70s.
I didn’t know what to expect from Born Standing Up. This covers the part of Martin’s career that I am utterly unfamiliar with. There are mentions of some of his later (but still early-ish) movies and television work, but this book covers Martin’s introduction to show-business, stand-up comedy and eventually television. It’s an interesting introduction to his work, his opinions on comedy and “where he came from”. I hope
An editor and writer’s vivaciously entertaining, and often moving, memoir – a true story that reminds us why we should all make time in our lives for books.
Nearing his fortieth birthday, author and critic Andy Miller realized he’s not nearly as well read as he’d like to be. A devout book lover who somehow fell out of the habit of reading, he began to ponder the power of books to change an individual life-including his own-and to define the sort of person he would like to be. Beginning with a copy of Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita that he happens to find one day in a bookstore, he embarks on a literary odyssey of mindful reading and wry introspection. From Middlemarch to Anna Karenina to A Confederacy of Dunces, these are books Miller felt he should read; books he’d always wanted to read; books he’d previously started but hadn’t finished; and books he’d lied about having read to impress people.
Combining memoir and literary criticism, The Year of Reading Dangerously is Miller’s heartfelt, humorous, and honest examination of what it means to be a reader. Passionately believing that books deserve to be read, enjoyed, and debated in the real world, Miller documents his reading experiences and how they resonated in his daily life and ultimately his very sense of self. The result is a witty and insightful journey of discovery and soul-searching that celebrates the abiding miracle of the book and the power of reading.
I received an eARC of this quite some time ago, but for some reason never got around to reading it. Then I had the chance to get it as an audiobook, and I thought it would be a good listen. I was… half right. The Year of Reading Dangerously is a most uneven book. It doesn’t start well, and I almost didn’t stick with it – sad to say, it was a bland beginning. Nevertheless, I stuck with it, and came to rather enjoy much of what Miller had to say on publishing, fiction and writing. He offers some great insight into the publishing and bookselling industry, and his sharp and sometimes acerbic observations were welcome and amusing. When talking about the books he’s selected to read for this project, however, I found the book a bit dull. Which is probably not what he was hoping for – these classic of literature, and he was not able to make me even remotely interested in what he had to say about them. So, a good book, but not great. Half interesting, half… meh.
Cold Iron is the next novel by Stina Leicht, author of the Fey and the Fallen duology. This is a brand new flintlock fantasy, to be published by Saga Press, and I must say it looks rather interesting:
Fraternal twins Nels and Suvi move beyond their royal heritage and into military and magical dominion in this flintlock epic fantasy debut from a two-time Campbell Award finalist.
Prince Nels is the scholarly runt of the ancient Kainen royal family of Eledore, disregarded as flawed by the king and many others. Only Suvi, his fraternal twin sister, supports him. When Nels is ambushed by an Acrasian scouting party, he does the forbidden for a member of the ruling family: He picks up a fallen sword and defends himself.
Disowned and dismissed to the military, Nels establishes himself as a leader as Eledore begins to shatter under the attack of the Acrasians, who the Kainen had previously dismissed as barbarians. But Nels knows differently, and with the aid of Suvi, who has allied with pirates, he mounts a military offensive with sword, canon, and what little magic is left in the world.
Cold Iron is due to be published in June 2015. I’m rather looking forward to it.
Also on CR: Interview with Stina Leicht (2012)
A quieter month — I don’t know if that’s just because there’s less coming out, or because I’ve somehow missed a bunch of new releases that never made it on to my radar. Feel free to add suggestions and recommendations in the comments, if you think I’ve missed something I shouldn’t have.
I’ve only read a little bit of Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings. While I thought it was very well written, it just wasn’t for me. Then I spotted this novel, which I thought sounded interesting. Here’s the synopsis:
If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be at home in New Jersey with her sweet British boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing him in the library stacks.
She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.
But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.
Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.
Belzhar is due to be published in the US by Dutton (Penguin), on September 30th, 2014; and in the UK by Simon & Schuster, on October 9th (for some reason, I could not find a UK cover for the novel – given how close it is to publication, this is rather baffling).
According to the publisher’s page, this is “Book One in the Ustari Cycle, the first portion of We Are Not Good People was originally published in an altered form as Trickster (Pocket Books)”. Not sure what this means for people (like me) who bought Trickster, or how “altered” this version will be, but here’s the synopsis for this version:
The ethics in a world of blood are gray – and an underground strata of blood magicians has been engineering disasters for centuries in order to acquire enough fuel for their spells. They are not good people.
Some practitioners, however, use the Words and a swipe of the blade to cast simpler spells, such as Charms and Cantrips to gas up $1 bills so they appear to be $20s. Lem Vonnegan and his sidekick Mags fall into this level of mage, hustlers and con men all. Lem tries to be ethical by using only his own blood, by not using Bleeders or “volunteers.” But it makes life hard. Soon they might have to get honest work.
When the pair encounters a girl who’s been kidnapped and marked up with magic runes for a ritual spell, it’s clear they’re in over their heads. Turning to Lem’s estranged master for help, they are told that not only is the girl’s life all but forfeit, but that the world’s preeminent mage, Mika Renar, has earth-shattering plans for her—and Lem just got in the way. With the fate of the world on the line, and Lem both spooked and intrigued by the mysterious girl, the other nominates him to become the huckleberry who’ll take down Renar. But even if he, Mags, and the simpletons who follow him prevail, they’re dealing with the kind of power that doesn’t understand defeat, or mercy.
We Are Not Good People is due to be published by Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster) in October 2014. One thing that’s clear to me is that the publisher is aiming for a new – or at least broader – audience: this cover is less “urban fantasy” and a bit more thriller. I’d love to know what, if any, difference this makes to its sales figures.
Based on the book by Goldman, the movie-adaptation of The Princess Bride is possibly one of the most beloved movies of the past few decades. Certainly, it has been a favourite of almost everyone I know. Later this year, Touchstone (Simon & Schuster) will publish Cary Elwes’s memoir of the making of the movie. Elwes played Westley in the movie (that dashing fellow on the cover, there).
From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.
The Princess Bride has been a family favorite for close to three decades. Ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 Greatest Love Stories and by the Writers Guild of America as one of the top 100 screenplays of all time, The Princess Bride will continue to resonate with audiences for years to come.
Cary Elwes was inspired to share his memories and give fans an unprecedented look into the creation of the film while participating in the twenty-fifth anniversary cast reunion. In As You Wish he has created an enchanting experience; in addition to never-before seen photos and interviews with his fellow cast mates, there are plenty of set secrets, backstage stories, and answers to lingering questions about off-screen romances that have plagued fans for years!
With a foreword by Rob Reiner and a limited edition original poster by acclaimed artist Shepard Fairey, As You Wish is a must-have for all fans of this beloved film.
Here’s the movie’s trailer (1987):
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Elwes was also superb in Robin Hood Men in Tights, as the only Robin Hood with a genuine British accent…