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2017 Man Booker Prize Winner is also a worthy listen

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 5:11am by Lucy S

Narrated by George Saunders, Nick Offerman, David Sedaris and various others
7 Hours and 30 Minutes

Lincoln in the Bardo has just been awarded the 2017 Man Booker Prize. George Saunders is the second US author to receive this honor, and his first novel garnered much publicity and praise upon publication. But have you considered listening to the audio version? Even if you aren’t normally drawn to books on CD, this one is more theatrical production than novel. Read by a cast of some 166 people, many famous voices among them, George Saunders’ story brings to mind Our Town, A Christmas Carol, and As I Lay Dying. The cast does a stellar job in delivering a beautifully read, moving, intelligent, and highly entertaining performance.

Two main plot lines run through Lincoln in the Bardo. Both are suffused with sadness, though there is much humor in the narrations of certain characters from beyond the grave. Many of the voices in this book are residents of The Oak Hill Cemetery, where President Lincoln has interred his son, Willie. They reside in a kind of limbo, “the bardo,” with unfinished business on earth, unaware that they are dead. The chapters alternate between the “action” in the bardo, and the story of the what is happening on the night of Willie Lincoln’s death, as told by Hans Vollman (Nick Offerman), Roger Bevins III (David Sedaris), and the Reverend Everly Thomas (George Saunders). Interspersed with their escapades are chapters focused on the raw grief of a father and his newly departed son. This most poignant story of a man struggling to say goodbye, and his son’s difficulty in letting go of the earth, is particularly moving. Listeners get an inside point of view from Abraham Lincoln himself, burdened with his country’s present agony as well as his own personal bereavement, as "narrated by hans vollman in the body of a. lincoln...
He is just one.
And the weight of it is about to kill me.
Have exported this grief. Some three thousand times. So far. To date. A mountain. Of boys. Someone’s boys. Must keep on with it. May not have the heart for it. One thing to pull the lever when blind to the result. But here lies one dear example of what I accomplish by the orders I …
What to do. Call a halt? Toss down the loss-hole those three thousand? Sue for peace? Become great course-reversing fool, king of indecision, laughing-stock for ages, waffling hick, slim Mr. Turnabout?
...What am I doing.
What am I doing here.
Lord, what is this? All of this walking about, trying, smiling, bowing, joking? This sitting-down-at-table, pressing-of-shirts, tying-of-ties, shining-of-shoes, planning-of-trips, singing-of-songs-in-the-bath?
When he is to be left out here?
Is a person to nod, dance, reason, walk, discuss?
As before?...
Was he dear or not?
Then let me be happy no more."

There are stand-out performances by many, most notably, David Sedaris, Nick Offerman, Julianne Moore as Jane Ellis, Kirby Heyborne as Willie Lincoln, Bill Hader as Eddie Baron and Megan Mullally as Betsy Baron
See more at: Penguin Random House Audio.

After two full run throughs, I had to return Lincoln in the Bardo for the next listener’s wonderment, but I miss the voices of Hans Vollman, Roger Bevins III, the Reverend Thomas Everly, and 163 others.

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