By Toni Morrison
Read by the author
Random House Audiobooks $25.95
Four cassettes, 6 hrs. Abridged
Toni Morrison's compelling readings have become essential adjuncts to her literature.
"Paradise" is the fifth novel she has recorded. (Previously heard were "Sula," "Jazz," "The Bluest Eye," and "Song of Solomon," all recorded for Random House Audiobooks.) Her voice gives nuance and emphasis providing keys to the lyrical ambiguity of the texts.
This story traces the history of an all black town set in the 1970s and four African-American women through generations of cultural differences. It examines the effects of racism on the relationship of black men and black women, a recurrent theme of the author's.
The cadence of Morrison's voice accentuates the book's interplay of magical realism, history, and relationships.
By Theodore C. Mason
Read by Richard Rohan
Naval Institute Press, $44.95
Eight cassettes, 13 hrs., unabridged
This recording is part of a new audiobook series called "Now Hear This," published by the Naval Institute Press. It offers the memoir of radioman Mason aboard the USS California during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. While Mason delivers a front-row account of his harrowing experiences during the raid, he also provides a social and cultural view of his life in the Navy leading up to December 7, 1942.
Richard Rohan is believable as the author's voice, relating an orderly, autobiographical account of life aboard ship and during those precious hours of liberty. Rohan is expressive without overdramatizing. He narrates Mason's recollections of his buddies, the shore leaves, and the nightlife in port.
By Stephen E. Ambrose
Read by Cotter Smith with an introduction and conclusion by the author
Simon & Schuster Audiobooks, $25
Four cassettes, 5 hrs., abridged
Stephen Ambrose begins this account on the Normandy Beaches June 7, 1944, and follows World War II through the Battle of the Bulge, concluding on May 7, 1945, with the surrender of Germany. Listeners follow the men from the hedgerows of Normandy to the snows of the Ardennes, the mud of Lorraine and finally to green fields of springtime as the conflict finally ends.
A portrait of the war and the US Army from privates to generals is drawn from letters, interviews, recollections, and written accounts. Cotter Smith presents these stories of individual soldiers - the acts of heroism, bursts of ingenuity, and moments of despair, that describe not just the events, but the spirit of the fighting men and women. His style is quiet and restrained, though sometimes lacking energy.
While made up of many incidents, "Citizen Soldiers" follows a chronological narrative despite many digressions into individual stories. Ambrose's sparse, unadorned style vividly defines scenes of conflict.
SHOOFLY: AN AUDIO BOOK FOR CHILDREN
Edited by Arlene Furman and Jack Nestor
Presented by The Shoofly Players, Subscription $29.95/year ($10 each) One cassette,1 hr.
Just as audiobooks entertain their all-too-busy parents, audio magazines can delight young listeners. Shoofly, a quarterly magazine on cassette geared to ages 3 to 7, does just that. In the four years since it started, Shoofly has developed an astute sense of its audience's interests and taste.
Each issue contains a combination of stories and poems that highlight favorite children's icons - dump trucks, bugs, and magical cats. Numerous voices add variety and a change of pace and offer something for the magazine's range of listeners.
In a recent issue, the adventures of Grummel the puppy has an all-American flavor, while Simon, a British centipede, tries out roller skates. Each program also features a guest musician.
PAUL THEROUX: THE COLLECTED STORIES
By Paul Theroux
Read by Susan Anspach, David Birney, and William Windom
Dove Audio, $25
Four cassettes, 6 hrs.
Collections of short fiction offer a unique opportunity to select pieces that represent many aspects of an author's work. Theroux's "The Mosquito Coast," "The Great Railway Bazaar," and "The Kingdom by the Sea," reflect his love of travel and sense of place. In this anthology listeners will discover even greater variety in Theroux's work.
His range of characters, places, and relationships, sometimes aloof and sometimes passionate, continually delight and surprise. The three narrators also offer variety. While Susan Anspach and William Windom have more or less the same approach to each selection, David Birney is a virtuoso. The entire collection is nicely punctuated with pauses, and the queuing of the tapes shows careful production.
* Robin Whitten is the founder and editor of AudioFile, a monthly magazine of reviews and information on audiobooks. RAudioFile@aol.com