The Twits, The Minpins, & The Magic Finger
By Roald Dahl; Read by Richard Ayoade, Bill Bailey, and Kate WinsletPublisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 26 September 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 2 hours
Themes: / children’s fantasy / short stories / creatures /
How do you outwit a Twit? Mr. and Mrs. Twit are the smelliest, nastiest, ugliest people in the world. They hate everything—except playing mean jokes on each other, catching innocent birds to put in their Bird Pies, and making their caged monkeys, the Muggle-Wumps, stand on their heads all day. But the Muggle-Wumps have had enough. They don’t just want out, they want revenge.
Little Billy strays into the forest, where he meets the Minpins?tiny people who live within the trees. The Minpins tell Billy about The Gruncher, who preys on them. So Billy embarks on a mission to rid the Minpins of their foe once and for all, and sets off?on the back of a swan?to confront The Gruncher.
THE MAGIC FINGER
What happens when the hunter becomes the hunted? To the Gregg family, hunting is just plain fun. To the girl who lives next door, it’s just plain horrible. She tries to be polite. She tries to talk them out of it, but the Greggs only laugh at her. Then one day the Greggs go too far, and the little girl turns her Magic Finger on them. When she’s very, very angry, the little girl’s Magic Finger takes over. She really can’t control it, and now it’s turned the Greggs into birds! Before they know it, the Greggs are living in a nest, and that’s just the beginning of their problems.
Although I have enjoyed many of the movies made from Roald Dahl’s books (most notably James and the Giant Peach) I cannot recall reading any of his books except Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which was … fine but not world changing for me. That’s kind of odd too, when I think about it, because I was the right age to be the prime audience when a lot of his books were coming out but I was largely oblivious to them. (Yep. Dated myself. Don’t care.)
However, as I have learned in the past, audio often breaks open a book or author who I didn’t find congenial in print. It was that way with Coraline by Neil Gaiman. It was that way with the last half of The Lord of the Rings (yes, I am ashamed but I will not lie). And, now, it is that way with Roald Dahl.
The Twits are the most horrible couple in the world and quite hateful to each other, until they are under attack from a common enemy. Even then they are horrible which makes it quite gratifying to see them get their comeuppance from the Muggle-Wump monkey family and the Roly Poly bird. This story had the most disgusting description of a beard I have ever encountered. Even while I was grimacing, I was also laughing because Dahl had such a clever way with words. Narrator Richard Ayoade had a lovely, calm British narration style that didn’t preclude hilarious, low-class voices for the Twits. First class stuff.
The Minpins has the most perfect monster name I’ve ever heard — The Gruncher, a fire-breathing, boy eating creature in Sin Forest. It sends Billy right up a tree where he meets the Minpins and they form an ingenious alliance to deal with their common foe. Bill Bailey narrated this with a great deal of gusto which didn’t detract in the least from the story.
The Magic Finger was my favorite story, partially because Kate Winslet’s narration won me over from the very beginning. I also just couldn’t resist the little girl who “puts my Magic Finger” on those who displease her. The Greggs are worthy of a magic finger punishment because they are such keen hunters. What the Magic Finger does is typical Dahl ingenuity at its best.
All three of these are little stories but each is a gem which children would love. Heck, I liked them quite a bit myself and, as I have revealed, I am far past the age of tender youth. I am now going to look for more Roald Dahl in audio, possibly even revisiting Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Posted by Julie D.
Talked about on today’s show:
The 1818 edition versus the 1831 edition, the half-made up prologue, Leaves Of Grass, are there any body changes?, “the corpus”, Downpour.com’s version with Simon Templeman, Anthony Heald, Stefan Rudnicki, Frankenstein vs. the monster, creature, wretch, demon, insect, incoherent with rage, face to face, moving on, the fainting hero or heroine, swooning, Lovecraftian fainting, cosmic horror, Herbert West: Re-Animator, Young Frankenstein, Cool Air by H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, M.R. James, becoming god, why are we reading a book by a teenager from almost 200 years ago, Edinborough, the broken reader, Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe, etymology, Paradise Lost, Gulliver’s Travels, Percy Shelley, William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Caliban, The Tempest, Science!, hey I’m killing your family and stuff, Spirits!, Russia, the Arctic, Prospero, Caliban the dogsbody, Sycorax, the pre-science world to the science world, Christopher Marlowe, “I’ll burn my books!”, the education of young Victor, religious swearing, Brian Aldiss, spark, the electrical element, Galvani and the frog’s legs, more chemical (than electrical), the Romantics, the heart of the the book, “the modern Prometheus”, nature, the North Pole, Siberia, Things As They Are; Or, The Adventures of Caleb Williams by William Godwin, berries and nuts, vegetarianism, the bringing of fire, The Wonderstick (the coming of the bow) “spooky action at a distance”, fire as technology, Eric S. Rabkin, fire -> knowledge -> enlightenment, the blasted oak, the family tree destroyed, this mortal clay, body stealing, Burke and Hare (are a lot of fun), ‘there are some things man was not meant to know’, a motherless monster, Young Frankenstein, what’s so cool about Young Frankenstein is that it solves the problems caused by previous movie adaptations, “Hey there handsome”, is the creature really hideous?, “a very Jewish movie”, “this is a boy that the world will love”, community, Victor had no Igor, Eyegor, or Fritz, well formed, euphemisms, dull yellow eye, proportionate limbs, is he veiny?, black and flowing hear, a pearly whiteness, a feminist novel, a misogynist fantasy, the framing narrative, males behaving badly, Gothic, gender coding, the curse of the Frankensteins, Frau Blücher, the Kenneth Branagh adaptation of Frankenstein, The Revolt Of Islam by Percy Bysshe Shelley, Justine (and the lack of justice she receives), Anne Rice, “I’m never going to sleep again”, the path of evil, Victor had a temper, the abnormal brain (Abbie someone), a “blank slate”, Henry Frankenstein, Young Frankenstein retcons the book and the 1931 movie (and the Hammer movies), Froderick Frankenstein, Boris Karloff, Transylvania Station, The Body Snatcher, Robert Louis Stevenson, The Black Cat (1934), Bela Lugosi, a movie from a parallel dimension, the perfect romantic character, the “noble savage” and the “blank slate”, flowery language and obfuscation, a baby story, that’s Science Fiction right there, an eight foot baby, how do we detect the world, what is light?, a blind man given sight, sphere vs. pyramid, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, an urbane monster, the ideal syllabus, Mary Shelley is showing the heck off, Paradise Lost, The Sorrows Of Young Werther, suicide, Lives Of The Noble Greeks And Romans by Plutarch, Ruins Of Empires by Constantin-François de Volney, Frankenstein’s lab notes, Safie, the Ottoman Empire, Turkey as a proxy for European society, Olaf Stapledon, the hapless fate of the aboriginals of North America, Shelley’s hanging out with radicals, an anti-American dream, three years after the fall of Napoleon, Lord Byron, dreams, “how are we living with each other?”, Prometheus Unbound, The Last Man, Prometheus should be our hero, Harlan Ellison, Walton, Bryan’s dissertation was on Frankenstein, The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, The Narrative Of Arthur Gordon Pym Of Nantucket, At The Mountain Of Madness, Star Trek, doppelgangers, doubles all the way down, perfectly symmetrical, The Prestige by Christopher Priest, Melmoth The Wanderer by Charles Maturin, The Saragossa Manuscript by Count Jan Potocki, the fire and ice, “in the cottage we are the monster”, lookism, when they see the monster, “as a lion rends the antelope”, Blade Runner‘s ending, all those murders, a child having a temper-tantrum, where you gonna get that wood?, standing on an ice-floe, Dante’s Inferno and the final circle of hell, Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Bryan reads Frankenstein every year, teaching Frankenstein in high-school, a perfect ending, is the monster still out there?, Edison’s 1910 film adaptation of Frankenstein (it’s 10 minutes), imagine Tesla adapting Frankenstein, a shameless self-promoter, “Victory Frankenstein fucked with Mother Nature, and She bore him a strong son”, ‘there are some things that man was not meant to know’, Walton wants to find the source of the pole’s magnetism, “it’s not just loving your family – it’s also loving your fellow being”, “if you make a mistake – own up”, Walton learns from the story, Young Frankenstein, it’s an ethics book, mad scientists, a Kennedy son, Moby Dick, C.L.R. James, a ship as a microcosm of society, “I smell readalong!”, Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power by Andrew Nagorski, “the kids loved Uncle ‘Dolf”, “charisma leaking out all over the place”, charisma and beauty, a bear doesn’t understand charisma, real-life parallels, what is the function of Henry Clerval in the book, is he us?, a homoerotic reading, Percy and Bryon go hiking, it’s Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, World’s End, Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz, Elizabeth’s provenance and the weird relationship with her cousin/brother/owner Victor, a subterranean psychodrama, Victor’s wild dream in which Elizabeth dies and then turns into his mom, grave worms, a maternal figure and a corpse.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Back in the 1980s, before audiobooks became almost mainstream, Listen For Pleasure, a Canadian based audiobook company, was publishing great audiobooks with great narrators. Here’s a 1987 ad showing just that.
Posted by Jesse Willis
William Shakespeare’s Star Wars
By Ian Doescher; Read by Daniel Davis, Jonathan Davis, January LaVoy, and Marc Thompson
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 1 October 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 3 hours, 31 minutes
Download excerpt: | MP3 |
Themes: / Star Wars / Shakespeare / poetry / saga / iambic pentameter /
Return once more to a galaxy far, far away with this sublime retelling of George Lucas’s epic Star Wars in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon. The saga of a wise (Jedi) knight and an evil (Sith) lord, of a beautiful princess held captive and a young hero coming of age, Star Wars abounds with all the valor and villainy of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. ’Tis a tale told by fretful droids, full of faithful Wookiees and fearsome Stormtroopers, signifying…pretty much everything.
Reimagined in glorious iambic pentameter, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars will astound and edify Rebels and Imperials alike. Zounds! This is the audiobook you’re looking for.
What if you went to your local Renaissance Fair expecting to watch a Shakespearean play that ended up being Star Wars: A New Hope? Shakespeare’s Star Wars is pretty much what you’d get. If you’re looking for a fun, lighthearted take on Star Wars that’s fun to listen to but can also come off a bit silly, you might enjoy this book. Don’t be intimidated by the Shakespeare part, it isn’t difficult to follow. We’re talking Renaissance Fair level of difficulty in understanding what’s going on.
This book follows the events of the first movie (Episode IV) and was more enjoyable than I thought it would be. Some fan service is paid out to small things like whether Han Shot first and Luke’s whining while on the farm. Too much fan service can be bad but I thought this was handled well and not overdone too much. It was just enough that it made me smile or laugh as the story progressed.
As for the Shakespearean side of things, Doescher does a great job of incorporating many of the more well known phrases and devices known from the more well known plays. I have to give him due credit for writing the whole thing in iambic pentameter and making fantastic use of asides (when characters speak to the audience). The asides are really great to show what characters are thinking and I especially like how they are used for R2D2 (and how he “plays the fool”). Doescher makes prolific use of many well known phrases from Shakespeare that work in most places but can be a little too jarring in others when too much of the quote is used (“we few, we happy few…”).
Audiobook: As for the audio performance, I couldn’t have been happier. I expected the Shakespearean dialogue to be difficult to follow but since it’s more like “Renaissance Fair” Shakespeare, it was no problem to understand. The cast did a great job with all the voices and I genuinely laughed after the first couple of R2D2 lines. I should note that I didn’t really like January LaVoy’s performance so much in Razor’s Edge but I thought she did great in this book. All the normal sound effects and music were also present and enjoyable as usual.
Posted by Tom Schreck
This audiobook, 7 hours 15 minutes, is complete and unabridged.
Victor Frankenstein, born into a wealthy Genevese family, is a student of science at the University Ingolstadt. There, studying the decay of once living beings, he gains an insight into the creation of life and conceives to fashion his own creation.
First published in 1818.
Posted by Seth Wilson
The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two (Fairyland #3)
By Catherynne M. Valente; Read by Catherynne M. Valente
Publication Date: 1 October 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 8 hours, 23 minutes
Themes: / fantasy / YA / children’s / fairy / coming-of-age /
September misses Fairyland and her friends Ell, the Wyverary, and the boy Saturday. She longs to leave the routines of home and embark on a new adventure. Little does she know that this time, she will be spirited away to the moon, reunited with her friends, and find herself faced with saving Fairyland from a moon-Yeti with great and mysterious powers.
This was a lovely third book in the Fairyland series, where September has struggled to return to Fairyland and is wondering if you can ever really go back. The characters left behind in Fairyland have struggled too, missing her and loving her. Life apart is not always easy.
September meets a few versions of Saturday and starts to question whether she gets choices in her life, and between that and the nostalgia of childhood and facing being a grownup and what that means for her fairy land and fairy friends, this book is a bit tinged in sadness. It also includes Valente’s amazing imagination that we’ve seen from her poetry to Palimpsest (still my favorite) to the very underdiscussed Prester John books.
This is the first book of Valente’s that I’ve listened to, and Catherynne M. Valente is a marvelous performer of her own work. Her voice has the versatility of an old-Hollywood actress, with moments of great rich depth. I feel like going back and listening to everything she’s ever read. Her performance enriches her worlds, and I highly recommend the audio.
The Fairyland books are highly recommended, starting with The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. Perfect for kids, young adults, and adults who can still dream.
Posted by Jenny Colvin