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August 11, 2011 Edition
Those who enjoy societal satire along the lines of Animal Farm ought to give this Bulgakov masterpiece a listen. Written in the 1920s, this rakes both the Soviet Union and human nature over the coals as it follows the life of a dog rescued from the streets by a medical researcher. Once the stray is nursed back to health, the surgeon makes the happy dog part of an experiment involving transplanted human organs. The surgery is a success – the dog survives and, as the surgeon theorized, begins taking on human characteristics. Unfortunately, many of the traits it gains are the worst the donor had to offer, and the researcher finds himself with a drunken and aggressive Frankensteinian monster on its hands. Bulgakov was a master at comic satire and this translation has been acclaimed as one of the best. Read with drama and zest by British actor McMillan, who uses accents familiar to Western listeners to convey each character’s class and background.
This BBC radio production delivers the high-quality radio-style drama we’ve all come to expect from them, and Wells’ writing stands the test of time. Slightly rewritten, this opens with an elderly H.G. Wells himself, working his shift as a fire watchman during the Blitz and telling his coworkers a story about a man who travelled through time to the distant future. This time traveler discovered that the human race had separated into two: the Eloi, who live aboveground and treasure their peaceful existence, and the Morlock, who live below ground and are fierce and warlike. The time traveler’s adventures among the two species are well-dramatized and exciting even today. This audiobook was an Audiophiles Earphones Award Winner in 2010.
When Chaim Skibelski’s small Polish village is “cleansed” of Jews, he is among those who end up in a mass grave, although there’s some question as to whether he is, in fact, dead. Accompanied by his rabbi, who has been transformed into a talking crow, Chaim roams his former village, unseen except by a few Poles and one German soldier, instead of having a deserved rest in the World to Come. Eventually, he is given a quest whose completion he hopes will lead him out of the world as it is and give him peace at last. Rickman’s reading gives this surreal and macabre allegory the tone of a Jewish folktale and makes this story of pain and hope both palatable and powerful.
Based on the life of Henry James and his young cousin, this tells the story of 19-year old Emily, who has been tossed from her boarding school after her parents die. Though she has a home to go to, it isn’t a happy one: her aunt and uncle are puritanical, distant and looking forward to marrying her off, and her two cousins seem indifferent to her presence. Eventually, though, Emily strikes up a friendship with her cousin William, an ailing writer, and when the Civil War begins, he whisks her off to England. But once in England, William’s protectiveness turns obsessive and Emily finds herself struggling to live within the boundaries of polite British civilization. Raver brings this story to life with her award-winning voice.
While teenager Clyde Tombaugh is trying to escape life on the Kansas family farm by grinding the perfect telescope lens, thousands of miles away a young woman resists the voices in her head, the heir to a fortune heads west to reinvent himself, and the staff at the Lowell Observatory resumes a search for Planet X. The disparate threads of this story coil together into one well-rounded whole by the end, but along the way, touch on madness, mathematics, the art of telescopes, boxing, dinosaurs, and more. Set at the beginning of the Great Depression, but steeped in the Jazz Age, this gives a lovely sense of the era as well as a look at what it took to be an astronomer before the age of computers.