Some of the elements of Ron Irwin’s debut novel, Flat Water Tuesday—a working-class kid in an elite New England boarding school, fierce athletic competition, fiercely competitive friendships, a looming tragedy—may seem familiar. But Irwin’s strong, simple prose, ably and convincingly read by Holter Graham, makes this coming-of-age story original and powerful. We meet Rob Carrey as a 30-something documentary filmmaker on the brink of losing the woman he desperately loves. The plotlines segue seamlessly back and forth from present to past, from a loft in Soho where Rob lives when not filming, to the year he spent rowing at Fenton School as one of the oarsmen in the legendary “God Four,” a team committed to winning, whatever the cost to body and soul. Irwin knows the exhilaration, pain and intensity of rowing (check out his bio), as well as the exhilaration and pain of growing up, finding one’s own identity, finding out what really matters, finding love—and he knows how to put it all together in this truly compelling novel.
FAR MORE THAN FUNNY
David Sedaris can make me laugh so hard that I have to pull the car off the road. He can also tell stories that are poignant, a little sad and a little bitter, and there doesn’t seem to be anything that makes him wince or have a cringe moment, from the potential joys of a colonoscopy to befouled Chinese toilets to a mummified human arm in a London taxidermist’s shop. His latest collection of essays, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls, is Sedarisissimo. He’s in top form, observing the world through his unique prism, skewed and skewering at the same time. As always, he narrates the audio with his signature deadpan delivery, his timing as perfect as his affection for the absurd. Sedaris is not one to shy away from the political or the personal. You’ll have no doubts about how he voted in the last election or how he feels about gay marriage, litterers of the English countryside (he hates them), French dentists (he loves them) . . . or his father.
TOP PICK IN AUDIO
How do you make the best better? Easy: You have John le Carré perform his own novel. And he does just that with his latest, A Delicate Truth. This is classic le Carré: elegantly written, Byzantinely plotted, with a hero as appealing as a young George Smiley and set in the present day, where counterterrorism can cloak chilling amorality, duplicity and cover-ups in the guise of righteous patriotism. Enter Toby Bell, rising star in the Foreign Office, private secretary to a flamboyantly ambitious minister running the covert extraordinary rendition of a jihadist arms dealer. But Toby has been left out of the loop, replaced by a “low flyer,” Christopher Probyn, a veteran diplomat and reliable has-been, the epitome of British rectitude, who believes he was part of a successful “mission.” Three years later, when Probyn, now Sir Christopher, is given proof that the mission was a whitewashed disaster, he feels compelled to get at the truth, whatever the consequences. That brings him to Toby, and brings Toby to an agonizing moral choice. Le Carré has an amazing ear for accents and an amazing talent for reproducing them. In this outstanding audio he nimbly switches from posh Brit to lilting Welsh, burred Scots, an Irish brogue, Afrikaner English and Belgian French, never slowing or interfering with the narrative pace.