Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Mark of Zorro by Johnston McCulley 
(Audiobook) Read by B.J. Harrison. approx. 8 hours.

They definitely don't write them like this anymore. The Mark of Zorro may very well be the king of the popcorn novels, succeeding in being a witty, adventurous delight despite having absolutely no nutritional value. This isn't an insult: Johnston McCulley's original 1919 novel is as delicious as a well-made dessert, overflowing with chases on horesback, sword play, evil tyrants, noble theives and of course the requisite lovely senorita who manages to not always be the damsel in distress. It's given a spirited reading by B.J. Harrison, the chief cook and bottle washer over at Mr. Harrison, who has narrated over three dozen novels and short stories for his Classic Tales podcast, has outdone himself this time around: he gives both voice and character to McCulley's calvacade of characters, moving from lisping generals to languid nobles with impressive ease.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Grover Cleveland: A Study in Character
by Alyn Brodsky. St. Martin's Press, 485 pages.

When it comes to studying American presidents, there's nothing sexy about Grover Cleveland. Study Lincoln, you get the Civil War; study Nixon, you get Watergate. Study Grover Cleveland and you get tarriff battles and the repeal of the Sherman Silver Act. Not quite the stuff they make Hollywood movies about. Yet Alyn Brodsky's charming pro-Cleveland biography is out to argue that we should all be giving America'as 22nd / 24th President a lot more credit. To Mr. Brodsky, there is something sexy about Cleveland's presidency. "He insisted on doing what was morally expedient," writes Mr. Brodsky. "Even if by doing meant placing his political career in jeopardy." This, according to Mr. Brodsky, made Cleveland a "political freak." Cleveland, in other words, is the epitome of the Hollywood president - moral, idealistic, incorruptible - the sort found in blockbusters and rarely in the White House.