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I have long admired Walker Percy and his novels, which embody his perceptions about 20th century America. I read most of them (in book form) 10 or 20 years ago, and as a kind of project, I have started to "reread" some as audiobooks. Do they "hold up" after 20 years?
I began with Love in the Ruins (my favorite) and enjoyed it very much.
But The Last Gentlemen is not one of Percy's best novels. Percy's characters, even in the best novels--The Moviegoer, Love in the Ruins, The Second Coming--tend to be enactments of ideas . . . types. In the best novels, they somehow "work."
But in The Last Gentlemen, every character seems especially cardboard-like. The dialog is stilted and artificial. Will Barrett's constantly repeating the words of others as he wanders uncomprehending through the existential wonderland of 20th century America becomes, especially with Wolfram Kandinsky's narration, just plain irritating.
Which brings me to the narrator. The habitual way Kandinsky inflected his tones nearly made me throw my ipod against a wall. His reading sounded like the narrations in 1950's newsreels or the travel featurettes that used to play before movies in theaters. But Kandinsky's manner is so exaggerated and the pattern of his inflections so repetitious, they seem like a parody. His whimpery, whiny voicing of Kitty Vaught made it IMPOSSIBLE to imagine how Will (or anyone) could fall in love with her.
I kept asking myself, "How did this guy get the job of recording an audiobook???" At times, I was gritting my teeth (literally), trying to get through a chapter.
I intend to continue revisiting The Moviegoer and The Second Coming through audiobooks, but I would NOT be doing so if Kandinsky were narrating them.
5 of 8 people found this review helpful
Would you listen to The Last Gentleman again? Why?
As an Alabamian, I found the narrators slaughtering of Southern dialect appalling. What was worse, was his overall slaughter of the 'language' of the characters and story. Why in the world was he chosen for this story? Story is fantastic. Highly recommend the book. Percy has a way of bringing his characters to life....to the point that you become them. The references to the South of the period it on target. I got the "Idiot" reference about 1/4 way thru, and now want to re-read it. Would love to 're-listen' with another narrator of the quality this story deserves.
1 of 2 people found this review helpful