Audio reviews reflect PW
's assessment of the audio adaptation of a book and should be quoted only in reference to the audio version.
MEN AND CARTOONS: Stories
, read by the author, Tim Blake Nelson, Kevin Corrigan et al. Random House Audio
, unabridged, four CDs, 4 hrs., $16.95 ISBN 0-7393-1489-0
Music resembling the theme from Star Wars
—complete with bombastic kettledrums and an announcer who sounds like he's caught in an echo chamber—ironically introduces Lethem's offbeat collection of short stories. Though the stories deal with the extraordinary (i.e., superheroes, super inventions and, in one case, a look into the future), themes of loneliness, despair and absurdity usually prevail. Each offering opens with a mood-setting musical backdrop, against which the reader introduces him or herself and the selection. The nine stories are read by eight readers and, from the start, the standard—both literary and narrative—is set quite high. Actors David Aaron Baker, David Krumholtz and Kevin Corrigan each present fine readings, ably setting the tone their stories require. Less convincing, but still entertaining, is Sandra Bernhard, who seems like the odd woman out in this nerdy man's world of comics and sci-fi. Conversely, the most inspired choice is John Linnell of the rock band They Might Be Giants
. Lethem himself maintains the audiobook's high standard and performs his prose with a sensitivity that's sweet but never cloying. Overall, this is a satisfying, and sometimes surprising, audio collection. Simultaneous release with the Doubleday hardcover (Forecasts, Oct. 25). (Nov. 2)