(John Hersey
Edward Asner, Reader)

(Audio Partners ---
Four Disks)
On 31 August 1946, the New Yorker dedicated an entire issue to a 31,000 word article by John Hersey entitled "Hiroshima." It sold out in hours and was subsequently read --- complete --- over ABC radio. The book, published by Knopf, was sent free to all Book-of-the-Month subscribers. It is still in print, has sold over 3,000,000 copies.

It was a detailed examination of the lives of six survivors of the first atomic blast visited on a city. To those of us who had been thrilled by the quick end of WWII, it was elegantly sobering. Instead of glorying in the victory, it told of the day-to-day lives of some of the 145,000 people who survived the atomic attack (100,000 died). It described the destruction not of a single city but of six people whose lives and bodies and world were drastically changed by a chance bomb dropped on a sunny, clear Sunday morning in August of 1945.

The writing by Hersey is impeccable and this reading by Edward Asner is equally impeccable. In fact, it is so well-done that after disk two some listeners will have trouble keeping up; or, better, will not want to keep up. The people we have come to know in the early part of the book --- factory workers, priests, doctors, mothers (and their children) --- find themselves and their lives in tatters, trying to survive in their litter of their own homes and neighborhoods --- a world suddenly filled with the deluge of refugees streaming from a flattened city center, refugees --- men, women, children, babes in arms --- skin hideously burned by the blast, flesh hanging off faces and arms and legs --- a pained army streaming out of the city, some blind, many injured, not a few with a new disease --- radiation sickness --- that would sicken and ultimately kill many of them.

The six subjects find themselves deluged by their own personal tragedies and the tragedy of thousands trying to distance themselves from a ruined city. And the reader finds himself deluged in the language that is factual, in no way judgmental.

The bombing of Hiroshima was a ruinous act imposed by a war that seemed endless. Hiroshima (the book) is equally ruinous to read, or hear. And that is the dilemma of it. We want to continue, to find out how each of these people survived. But at the same time, we want out. We want to learn, and to see, but we, so many years after the fact, do not want to be so horrified.

I can thus highly recommend this eminent work, and this excellent reading. But I cannot figure out how to listen to the very end.

--- Patricia Wisdom


Larry McMurtry
Annie Potts,

(Recorded Books)
Marie Antoinette Courtright lives in a shack in No Man's Land and one day in 1872 she finds that her father has hanged himself ("tongue as black as a boot"). So she gathers up brother Jackson and moves to the town of Rita Blanca and installs herself as the local telegraph operator and town scold.

The Yazee Gang come to terrorize everyone, but brother Jackson --- now a deputy sheriff --- manages to plug all six in the heart (beginner's luck, they say). Buffalo Bill comes to check out the story, finds the twenty-two year old Marie Antoinette, now just plain Nellie, efficiently running things and hires her to be his "major domo" up in Platte, Nebraska. Just like that. It's that kind of novel.

Nellie is "forthright:" pretty and sassy. In the course of her story, she manages to meet not only Buffalo Bill, but General Custer, the Earps, William Tecumseh Sherman, Billy the Kid, and Bill Hickock. She also manages "to copulate" with several other men drifting through town, including a "snaggle-toothed" newspaper reporter who wins her heart.

The story is narrated by her and the writing is filled with 19th Century westernisms. It's not money, it's "cash money." She is described as "starchy" --- a smart-aleck --- and she finds herself dealing with a number of "stiffies" and "bullwinkles" ... especially from the members of the press who come to cover the Yazee killing.

It takes McMurtry some while to get the story line up and whittling along and the last chapters are not an ending but more of a wasting away (Buffalo Bill dying alone with a bottle of whiskey, Nellie his sole last witness) ... but in the interim, the dialogue is fun, the reading by Ms. Potts is genuine Oklahoma dead-pan pan-handle stuff, and the way Nellie deals with Jesse James --- the "full fig" --- is classic. Even eating buffalo liver with "a touch of bile" and a dessert of vinegar pie seems believable, right, and appropriate to the times and to the writing.

It all goes to put one in mind of cumming's final, lovely rumination on that era:

    Buffalo Bill's
    defunct          who used to
              ride a watersmooth-silver
    and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat
    he was a handsome man
                     and what i want to know is
    how do you like your blueeyed boy
    Mister Death

--- Richard Saturday

A Caribbean

Agatha Christie
Rosalind Ayers, Reader

(Audio Partners ---
5 disks)
Miss Marple is such a sly old boots. She's there on vacation on Saint Honoré in the Caribbean. Everyone thinks of her as a "twittery" old lady, which is fine with her. But when her friend the Major gets murdered, and then, shortly afterwards, the beautiful black Victoria is done in, she gets her dander up, begins to ask questions.

Seems this is not the first murder to visit the islands, and they all have a pattern. The victim is heavily sedated, and, in an earlier dispatch, being a sickly wife, gets her head stuck in a gas oven. Without a match.

There is little time for philosophy, what with the on-going mystery, but Miss Marple does offer up the idea that when you meet strangers on vacation, you know nothing, some of them may do murder for a living. They also may be making up their entire life's story. There is, however, the reality of listening to steel bands (which she loathes) and eating paw-paw (which she also loathes.)

It is nicely plotted: the ten or so characters laid out for us at the very beginning; and, knowing Christie, the least likely will be the one who did it, and the unpleasant ones who seem the most suspicious will gradually fade out. One character --- a crotchety old miser with keen eyes and the knowledge that people are after him for his money --- will turn out to be Marple's fellow detective.

These Agatha Christie novels are not, in truth, novels: they are plays with excellent dialogue, spun out patiently, little description (we don't even know what most of the characters look like) until finally, zounds, there is the villain, trapped at the crucial moment, cursing Miss Marple, trying to wrestle his way out the door.

It's lots of fun, and the reading by Rosalind Ayers is more than adequate, but how the grouchy old bachelor gets away with calling Miss Marple a "pussy" ... we'll never know.

--- Richard Saturday


Gene Wilder
Scott Brick, Reader

(Books on Tape ---
Three Disks)
Paul Peachy goes to Europe in 1918 as a private in the U. S. Army. He is an innocent from Milwaukee, but speaks perfect German (his family were first generation immigrants). His first duty, once there, is to interview a captured spy, Harry Stroller. Later, snared by the Germans himself, he convinces them that he is Stroller which makes it possible to live in the luxury of the German military, in a castle. He manages to convince the top brass of the German army of his new identity, and he is offered, by his new friends, a whore of his very own. Her name is Annie Breton.

This is Gene Wilder's first novel and the plot line, if nothing else, makes one willing hang in there until Peachy's final, merciful uncovering. Perhaps Wilder thought that by having the word "whore" in the title it would sell. But there is little erotic or even naughty (or even good) in this potboiler. The author, apparently, doesn't know how to string words together, much less evoke passion or laughter. He did better, far better, as a demented medico in Woody Allen's Everything Your Want to Know about Sex. As you may recall, he fell in love with and ruined his life because of a deep involvement with a sheep.

Message to Wilder. We trust you with the animals; leave the whores to their own devices.

The reading is uninspired.

--- Richard Saturday
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