The kids are at school and it’s time to catch you up on some of the truly enjoyed audio books that I listened to running on the trail, to and from the store, while pulling weeds, climbing Mount Dishmore or driving along on of those short steal away vacations. Audio books are so forgiving when you don’t listen to them. You can speed them up, slow them down and jump around. Your smart phone will be happy to remember your place for you in case the book exceeds its loan and you have to wait in line to get it back. This issue of Bookisshh listens in on two works that can only be placed together on a shelf which might be titled, “About Women Young and Old” “Takes Place In New York City” or just “Audiobook Raves” which is how I categorize them! Enjoy!
American Housewife by Helen Ellis
🖊 🖊 🖊 🖊 Four Pens
Funny, funny, FUNNY!!! This is a collection of stories some of which intersect and weave in and out with extreme subtlty among domestic goddesses and their antics. As an audiobook, this was so entertaining, that I was disappointed when I learned that ABC’s October launch, “American Housewife” is not an adaptation of this book in the slightest. So what did I do? I gave it a quick listen again! The book moves quickly, and depending how much ear time you have you can knock it out in 3-4 days.
Cited as the dark side of the domestic world, Ellis enchants us with ladies who lunch, celebrity dumpster divers, book club Stepfordesque wives and crackpot chicks. Told in first person, Ellis is a maestra of comedic monologue. Some of these can be either great stand up routines or wonderful scene study options. She concentrates so much character within her monologues. Additionally, Ellis captures the diced up way we think and communicate these days–assemblages of email, text, voice message–she understands that long form is less tolerable for today’s anxious readers.
Some of the funnier stories are, “The Wainscoting War” and “Hello! Welcome To Book Club” and “My Novel Is Brought To You By The Good People At Tampax.” The last of which tells of a writer struggling with writer’s block uses social media platforms to evolve plots and develop characters while suffocating under the watchful presence of her sponsr, Tampax. Beware if you find yourself or others in this book. At the very least, Ellis uses the right touch of hyperbole that none can be offended. She had to draw inspiration from somewhere and I’m guessing she’s watched a lot of Bravo television and may circulate within a monied suburb. I am smiling now and may have to actually read it now. It’s wonderful when your smile is better than a facelift. Give it a try!
“The Mare” by Mary Gaitskill
🖊 🖊 🖊 🖊 🖊 Five Pens
As an audiobook the producer does an unflinching job in casting the right readers for the characters. The accents are well affected and Reader/Listeners can really sink in and get to know them well.
Narrated in first-person alternating points of view, the story centers around Velveteen Vargas, 12 years old, first generation Dominican residing in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York. Velvet, to escape her abusive and oppressive household is signed up for the Fresh Air Fund, which takes inner city youth to the country to experience the fleeting expansiveness of green space and if they’re lucky enough animals. One of the lucky ones, Velvet is assigned to childless, Ginger and Paul who insist on getting her on a bike, on a horse and outside.
Reader/Listeners follow Velvet on her journey from the inner city to the country stable. As we follow her we witness her self-discovery, painful abuse, and her development of self-efficacy. We also follow storylines belonging to Ginger, Paul, Silvia and Dante. Ginger acts as Velvet’s surrogate country mother and she contributes to her education and connects her initially to the stable. Ginger opens her heart unconditionally to Velvet and Reader/Listeners struggle with trusting her motives. Silvia struggles with lengthening the kite-string on which she lets Velvet fly and is angered by the deception she encounters when Velvet sneaks around Silvia, riding her forbidden mare in a local competition. Silvia near died in a horse related incident and feared for her daughter’s life.
The mare is a metaphor for Velvet. They have had similar abusive trajectories and poor self concepts. They understand each other, each tames the other and in essence heal each other. Gaitskill tips her authorial hat toward “National Velvet” in ways so many, that I am heading to the library to rent it now. Horses become further removed from our lives as we build and further industrialize our green space. Definitely not g-rate but a young adult in high school might find this book compelling.