The Great Brain (Audiobook) by John D. Fitzgerald, Ron McLarty: A frequently pleasant stroll down memory lane

The Great Brain (Audiobook)The Great Brain

by John D. Fitzgerald, Ron McLarty (Narrator)
Series: The Great Brain, #1

Unabridged Audiobook, 4 Hours, 41 Minutes
Listening Library, 2002

Read: February 25 – 26, 2019


Growing up, these stories about a pre-teen con artist in late 19th Century Utah were among my favorites. I remember stumbling on a box set at a Yard Sale after I’d read them from the Library a couple of times and just about wore out the set reading and re-reading them. Even then, I remember that I had problems with some of the characters, and recall that my favorite was always the narrator, John D., not the titular Great Brain himself, Tom D. About 10 years ago, I read the series to my kids, and enjoyed it (possibly more than they did), but not as much as I remembered. Still, when I saw it listed as a new addition to my library’s catalog, I took a second glance and when I saw that Ron McLarty did the narration, I had to try it.

This book is a series of episodes from over a year or so in the life of three brothers, Sweyn D., Tom D. and John D. Fitzgerald. Sweyn is around a little bit as the more mature eldest brother, John’s the youngest (8 or 9, I believe) and Tom is 10 and the star. He’s Greedy, conniving, and ambitious — and his ego is bigger than the rest of his attributes combined. They live in a small, largely LDS, town in Utah during the last decade of the 1800s. The episodes feature different ways in which Tom’s Great Brain works to make him money and/or notoriety in the community, especially with the kids.

Some of these antics are silly, some are serious. Almost all of them are profitable for Tom. The strength of the stories is the humanity of the rest of the community — the traveling Jewish merchant, the local farmers, the Greek immigrant family, for starters. The weakness comes from the very laissez-faire approach to parenting the Fitzgeralds take — allowing Tom D. to pretty much get away with everything he wants.

There is some charm, some heart, throughout — even from Tom. That part appeals to me, the ego-driven greedy exploits of the Great Brain don’t. John’s narration occasionally will critique Tom’s motives, but mostly John’s a little brother thinking his big brother is fantastic no matter what. I know John becomes more disillusioned later, but for now, it was annoying. I want better for him.

How’s the narration you ask? Honestly, the chance to listen to Ron McLarty narrate was half the reason I had for grabbing this. McLarty will always be Sgt. Frank Belson to me, despite the many other things he’s accomplished in life. He did a fine job, at times a great job. Something about him reading the contraction-less dialogue bugged the tar out of me. George Guidal can make it work when he reads Henry Standing Bear — although it helps that no one else does it. McLarty can’t make it work, probably because despite the fact that slang is used, time appropriate language — but not a contraction from anyone? I don’t lay the fault at McLarty’s feet, it’s just a prominent feature.

I still recommend the books and enjoyed them. It’s just a tempered enjoyment. I’ll probably keep chipping away at the series over the next few months — waiting to see John’s disillusionment grow, and the brothers develop a conscience.

—–

3 Stars

2019 Library Love Challenge

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United States of Books – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Audiobook) by Hunter S. Thompson, Ron McLarty

I’m a long-time fan of the Narrator, Ron McLarty, but didn’t know he did audiobooks — I need to go track some down, probably not this one, though.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

by Hunter S. Thompson, Ron McLarty
(Narrator)

Author: Wattle at Whimsical Nature

2 Stars

Synopsis: In Las Vegas to cover a motorcycle race, Raoul Duke (Thompson) and his attorney Dr. Gonzo (inspired by a friend of Thompson) are quickly diverted to search for the American dream. Their quest is fueled by nearly every drug imaginable and quickly becomes a surreal experience that blurs the line between reality and fantasy. But there is more to this hilarious tale than reckless behavior, for underneath the hallucinogenic facade is a stinging criticism of American greed and consumerism.

Review: I’ve been to Las Vegas exactly once, I thought it was a bit odd, a bit dirty and not a place I would like to spend any considerable amount of time in.

I felt similar things toward this book. I’ve tried to read it before in paperback, and I put it down after five pages or so. I have seen the film and hated it; so when I saw this on my list for review I was a little worried.

Rightly so, it turns out.

I opted to listen to the audiobook in the hope that I would find it more engaging than if it were text. Ron McLarty did a wonderful job with the narration, I really liked listening to him, but Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was such a tedious story. The 6 hours I spent listening to it felt like 6 years.

This story is meant to be hilarious and surreal. I think I laughed once, and it was more of a derisive snort than actual laughter. I’m still not entirely sure what the point of the book was, there was such excess and stupidity and vastly irresponsible behavior.

If it was trying to teach me a lesson, I failed to see it (unless that lesson was – don’t do drugs). The characters were all unlikable; the story felt like it was just a rambling bunch of sentences thrown together with little direction. The content was definitely not for me (I don’t even drink, so the characters desire to be constantly wasted was beyond me), I felt the casualness of their drug taking and ridiculous behavior in general was more worrying than amusing.

I gave it two stars, 1.5 for the narration (which was really very good) and 0.5 for the work itself – it was much too far out of my comfort zone and just a bit too strange for me to get into. A pity, because I think if it had been written in a different way, it would have been a much more engaging work.