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A Reader of Fictions: Pleasant Valley Sunday - The Monkees

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pleasant Valley Sunday - The Monkees

Babbitt

Author: Sinclair Lewis
Narrator: David Colacci
Duration: 13 hours, 52 minutes
Publisher: Tantor Audio

Brief Summary:
George F. Babbit works as a realtor and dislikes everyone in his family, except for his youngest child (three kids- two girls and one boy), Tinka. He lives for status, his lunches at the athletic clubs, making money and being recognized as important by his peers. Babbitt is middle-aged, opinionated and a pillar of the community. His life is thrown into chaos when his best friend and biggest admirer begins acting in a way not allowable in their social set.

Review:
That's a summary of sorts, although I don't think too much of it. For the most part, this is a book about an 48 year old grump's midlife crisis. I hated every single minute of this story. George F. Babbitt struck me as wholly offensive and obnoxious from the very first and he only got worse. While I know, on one level, that this is probably to make a point, I cannot accept that he never gets a comeuppance for being an idiotic jerk. He constantly espouses viewpoints as his own, even though he's simply repeating what he has heard or read in the newspaper.

Once again, I listened to an audiobook. It's hard for me to say whether it was a good performance of the novel or not, since I so hated the novel itself. From the first, I really wanted to punch Colacci in the face to make him stop talking. His voice is grating and annoying. This inclines me to say that thus this is not a great audiobook, but, still, such a voice does fit perfectly with the truly awful people in the story. I do imagine that Babbitt sounds exactly like that.

A more fair criticism of the performance than my personally not liking the sound of Colacci's voice is that it was often difficult to tell the characters apart. During conversations, I really could not follow who was speaking, unless there was some sort of note as to who said what. One conversation between Paul Riesling and Babbitt, for example, left me unsure as to whose wife was being annoying and who was praising whom. Surprisingly, though, this gruff-voiced man did a really good job with the female voices, although, again, they all sounded pretty similar. Of course, the women never really have a conversation, so that didn't matter much.

Pretty much the only interesting thing in this novel is the setting (1920s), but I would recommend getting that from An American Tragedy instead, which has some really strange parallels. Babbitt is repetitive (he constantly mentions his desire to quit smoking and then forgets and then announces he'll do it this time and then...) and obnoxious (Babbitt spends the first half of the novel being sanctimonious about things and behavior, then goes and does all those things and is sanctimonious about those that judge him for it). If that's your thing, then go for it.

P.S. The joke's on me, since I already own another book by Sinclair Lewis. The question is: will I read it or just sell it to a used book store now?

"Another Pleasant Valley Sunday
Here in status symbol land
Mothers complain about how hard life is
And the kids just don't understand

Creature comfort goals
They only numb my soul and make it hard for me to see
My thoughts all seem to stray, to places far away
I need a change of scenery"

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