Listen Up

Article excerpt

Sula

By Toni Morrison

Read by the author Random House AudioBooks Unabridged, four cassettes 6 hrs., $25.95 Toni Morrison truly understands the power of language. Many readers know her written work, but in this recording of her 1973 novel, she reveals another dimension of her art. She uses the spoken word to present her stunning visual images. Most books read by their authors are their most recent work. It's quite unusual for an author to record a book that is not new, hence this recording is a gem. Her smooth, mellifluous voice honors each sound and distinctly expresses each image. The smoothness of her voice draws the listener to complete attention. "Sula" is the story of two women, Sula and Nel. It begins with their girlhood friendship, their families and the events that shaped their lives. Morrison describes the "squinty" town of Medallion. She communicates to listeners the deep attachments held for this land, sold as the "bottom of heaven" when, in fact, it was a wasteland on top of a hill. Her voice creates a sense of magical realism. 10 Lb. Penalty, By Dick Francis Read by Martin Jarvis Putnam Berkley Audio $17.95 Two cassettes, 3 hrs. abridged One of the great joys of Dick Francis's English horse-racing novels is his changing array of characters. In "10 LB. Penalty" the focus is George Julian, a rising political star, whose son, Benedict, passionately wants to pursue a career as an amateur jockey. Listeners are treated to a wonderful performance by British actor Martin Jarvis, acclaimed for his readings of Francis's work in the UK. Jarvis presents the trainers, race officials and horse owners as old friends. The political twist gives him more characters on which to work his magic. Jarvis quickly and succinctly sets the scene, establishing each character with a deft narrative touch. He delivers a diversity of accents and voices that subtly identify and distinguish members of Julian's local constituency and his political rivals. The tension between father and son, a central element of the story, is astutely balanced. Here, a longer abridgment would be welcome to make the rapid rise of George Julian from his first election to his arrival at 10 Downing Street more believable. Seeing A Large Cat By Elizabeth Peters Read by Barbara Rosenblat Recorded Books, $17.50 (Rental) 10 cassettes, 14.75 hrs. Unabridged Egyptologist Amelia Peabody Emerson, her husband/scholar, Radcliffe Emerson, and son, Ramses, have quite a loyal following of their escapades in Egypt, as they ferret out impostors and criminals all the while conducting archaeological excavations. Author Peters' PhD in egyptology equips her in providing a detail-rich setting of turn-of-the-century archaeology in the Valley of the Kings. In this episode, the Emersons dig next door to Howard Carter's yet undiscovered tomb of Tutankhamen. …