One hundred postings, that is, of my two-minute-long podcast book essays.
In honor of this milestone, I annotate my five favorite Lone Readers. You can hear them, and many more, at the Lone Reader Podcast page.
Endgame by Frank Brady.
The story of World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer’s descent into paranoia and madness. To indicate his breaking point, I used a sound file of a phonographic needle scraping across a vinyl record. An excerpt from Orff’s Carmina Burana provided the perfect backdrop to a story of a man whose demons overwhelm his genius.
Secretariat by William Nack.
One of my sports heroes, the equine monster that won horseracing’s Triple Crown in 1973, rolling up the competition by thirty-one lengths in a racehorse-devouring Belmont Stakes. Along with confirming Secretariat’s hunk-horse status, I tried to emphasize the culture and grandeur of horseracing. The rousing allegro of Beethoven’s violin concerto seemed a grand enough background.
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman.
During the Vietnam War no one wanted to publish this sci-fi story of an 1,800-year-long space-war where half of the battle survivors go insane. The settings and attitude are awesome: high-tech warriors entering time portals through collapsing stars, surprising the enemy freaks and caulking the buggers right. “Full Metal Jacket” in outer space. The rhythm of the narration in this little production seemed to mesh perfectly with Collision Process’s grating rock theme.
Lost on Planet China by J. Maarten Troost.
This scalding account of travel in the new China tracks a China-travel newbie as he learns the ropes in this ferociously alien country. Our hero starts his China journey by being shouldered aside by three-and-a-half-foot tall grandmothers. By the time he leaves, he’s ripping the head off live squid and devouring them. Onaka’s bling-bling techno-fusion theme pierced with shards of distortion just seemed right.
Let’s Put the Future Behind Us by Jack Womack.
One of my favorite authors. A brutally dark and funny parody of life in newly capitalist Russia, “where corruption and bribery are the new trickle down.” William Gibson once said that characters in Gibson’s own books wouldn’t last five minutes in Womack’s world. Hard to musically capture Womack’s edge, but Farago’s sly bassoon piece expresses the book’s irony perfectly.