The Largesse of the Sea Maiden

Denis Johnson, read by multiple narrators. Random House Audio, , unabridged, digital download, 5.5 hrs., $15 ISBN 978-0-525-49547-5
An outstanding assemblage of actors narrates this powerful collection of five short stories from the late Johnson, who died in 2017. Film actor Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road, Nocturnal Animals) soulfully relays “The Starlight on Idaho,” which unfolds in a series of letters to friends and family, written by a character named Mark “Cass” Cassandra from inside a rehab facility where he is trying, once again, to get clean. Shannon’s delivery fully embraces the highs and lows of Cass’s missives, which are at times as funny as they are tragic. “Triumph over the Grave” is written from the perspective of an elderly writer who ponders his mortality while reflecting on the deaths of his friends. Voice actor Will Patton reads this story in a Southern accent. He sounds both reflective and wise, and his slow pacing gives the impression that the speaker is a man who chooses his words carefully. The story ends with a chilling passage that Patton transforms into a emotionally raw soliloquy. While Patton and Shannon provide the most noteworthy performances, the other stories, which are read by celebrity narrators Nick Offerman, Dermot Mulroney, and Liev Schreiber, are also excellent. These exceptional stories are expertly rendered, both in the writing and the reading, and are a fitting finale to Johnson’s career. A Random House hardcover. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 03/05/2018
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