Retail pak Mercury Records 1997
CS ISBN 3145366084 $19.95 Two cassettes
The New Yorker is an exciting new entrant to audio publishing. In the first in a series called The New Yorker Out Loud, five stories were selected for the two-cassette or CD program. Authors John Updike, Seamus Deane, Ian McEwan, Lorrie Moore and Martin Amis make an impressive lineup. All the fiction has been recently published in the magazine, and two, pieces "Us or Me" from McEwan's Enduring Love and "What Happened to Me on My Holiday" from Amis's Night Train, excerpted from books released this month. Updike, Amis and McEwan were cast to read their own stories. No matter how good the works of John Updike and Martin Amis are, nothing can make up for their inadequacies as readers. Ian McEwan, however, is brilliant and essentially saves the entire program. His narrative ebbs and flows with mesmerizing effect. McEwan builds the narrative and emotional drama to a conclusion that readers know is coming from the opening paragraphs. The choice of actors for the remaining two stories somewhat mitigates the risky author choices. Frances McDormand reads Lorrie Moore's "People Like That Are the Only People Here." McDormand gives an exceptional performance, catching the high-pitched anxiety and desperation of Moore's writer-mother battling life and the medical system for the life of her child. The problem here is the choice of this story.The pain of the story is amplified in performance, and many listeners may simply turn it off. There is always this risk with difficult subjects, and certainly McDormand does everything to pull listeners through. Seamus Deane's "Maths Class" offers a rare light moment in these selections. Gabriel Bryne does a fine job with some tricky dialogue between teacher and students. The program also has some ups and downs in production quality. The package is engaging, using art by Owen Smith, a new protégé of New Yorker covers. Inside the liner notes have wonderful photos of the authors and performers at their recording sessions. They give the listeners a wonderful sense of the energy and vitality that has gone into the recordings. However, the editing is uneven. We hear Martin Amis cough, and some of the annoying sounds in the Updike narrative could surely have been edited out. This distinguished publisher has wonderful resources and great material to record. Its foray into audiobooks is an excellent first effort. But, like all audio publishers, The New Yorker/ Mercury alliance should be held to high standards of performance and production quality. R.F.W. ©AudioFile, Portland, Maine [Published: FEB 98]
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