Cleaning Nabokov’s House by Leslie Daniels read by Bernadette Dunne

“John has left me his town. Although now that his town didn’t have the children in it..”

The demented but funny* ex-wife of a husband who should have come with instructions on how to load the dishwasher invites our sympathy because:

1. the ex-person has custody of the children
2. she is vaguely overweight
3. her mother doesn’t recognize her voice on the phone [“Your father could talk to anybody, to Osama Bin Laden” as though there was another Bin Laden who was a better conversationalist.]
4. she opens a cat-house for middle-aged women with nothing to do but paint their bathrooms and get pedicures

She finds an old delapidated lodge just outside of the dull little University town of Onkwedo, hires the men’s crew team as research assistants for a science experiment on female sexual response, and launches her career as a Madame while she finishes a novel by Nabokov on the side.

She interviews with a potential sex-worker:

Sydney Walker carefully arranged a tiny ipod system with speakers …on the mantle above the fireplace. He turned on a Los Lonely Boys song, Heaven, and began to strip. It was the most interesting thing I’d watched since they put a mirror up for the birth of [my daughter].

She looks for a new place to live:

It looked as if a young architect, fresh from Onkwedo’s own Wainwright University, had fallen in love with Frank Lloyd Wright, bought himself a pile of wood, borrowed a hammer and set to work. Like the Second Little Pig had been schooled at the Bauhaus.

She goes to New York City to meet with a lawyer:

I wondered if his real name was Max or whether the company had merely insisted on something mono-syllabic.

She goes out on a date:

I used to be a catch. Dated three or four at a time. I burned out. And when they show up with those big pocketbooks I know I am in trouble… They bring their own sex toys. Is that progress? I feel like the Hoover guy….

Threading the Needle by Marie Bostwick read by Hilary Huber, Bernadette Dunne

Imagine a Cobbled Court Quilt Shop. A Blue Bean Bakery. A For the Love of Lavender Herbal Boutique. Farms, handiwork, handicraft, prudent, helpful, hardware-toting neighbors, dainty small town gossip, happy volunteers, lavender soap: the fantasmatic drift of post-Madoff sub-urban female regret. What does a pretty pacified community look like when the women take over the finances and the values? New Bern, Connecticut.

Madelyn, “the widow Madoff”, is back in New Bern, Connecticut because that’s where the inherited house is located. But she might as well be “the ex-Mrs. Madoff” or the “Green Mrs. Madoff” or the “recovering Mrs. Madoff”. She and the house are ready for a reconstruction. Tessa is a new Christian, newly broke. She runs a lavender shop and quilts and prays. Listen:

..Then one day when I was in the shop, repairing some stitching on Madelyn’s quilt, I started praying. I prayed for Lee, for Josh, for Madelyn, for Margo, for Virginia, Evelyn, for all my doubts and worries as well as all the things I’m grateful for… Somehow as I was praying, rocking that needle back and forth the way Virginia taught me, I forgot to be awkward. Prayer flowed from me naturally, in a plain and continuous pattern that mirrored the motion of my needle; simple, rhythmic, thought by thought, stitch by stitch, forgetting to be worried about the outcome, focused only on that stitch, that inch, that curve, until I came to the end of my thread and myself and pulled my gaze back to discover the bigger picture….

Madelyn rebuilds her life at the same time she rebuilds the old house, from the inside out, with the help of a one-eyed recovering alcoholic Vietnam Veteran who runs the hardware store, and Tessa, and Lee, Tessa’s reconstructed farmer-accountant-husband, and all the girls from the Quilting Circle, and their friends…

The Taken by Inger Ash Wolf, read by Bernadette Dunne

We find the troublesome, 62 year old Detective Inspector in bed after a back operation, popping Percocets and abusing the hospitality of her ex-husband’s new wife. Within a week she is thigh deep in a case of abduction, with a scene of crime and a bloody victim being broadcast live on line to her desktop. Within 2 weeks her wry, dry, black personality has generated several joyless encounters.

Consider Officer Childress from Toronto:

“Are you crazy!!? You don’t send the chief of the biggest division in Toronto a human hand to his desk!” (Hazel: “Where does he like to take delivery of such things??”)

Or Supervisor Ilunga: “Now he was looking at her as if trying to decide what part of her to rip off first.”

I told you to go home… …We investigated this death. You arrived here with a foregone conclusion. What I’m doing is standing my ground against the devil, who appears before us in the form of an intuition. Every time someone walks in here with a feeling i want to reach for my gun. You know how much a hunch costs? A SOCO team with a vehicle big enough to get that boat and its oars back to a clean room, the hours to rephotograph the goddamn thing, the spectroscope, the refingerprinting of latents now 3 years old, I’ll start at $30,000 but I’m being optimistic. “(Hazel: “So its the cost that bothers you, or the revelation that you accepted a suicide wrap because its good for business?…”)

Or Sunderland, the editor of the Westmuir Record, hair plastered flat on his forehead by weather and stress:

Ah! Here she is: Shiva the Destroyer. And look! Here is her handiwork! …You are feckless, power-hungry, thoughtless, arrogant and foolish… You think strong arming anyone you care to into doing your will is the way to run the Port Dundass PD…!? ” (Hazel: How was Atlanta? …If you’re thinking of ruining me you better get in line; you have competitors.”)

By the end the whole affair has cost 30 grand plus one helicopter, but life in the Canadian provinces is back to normal, the “weekly B & E, the biweekly domestic, the monthly car theft.” (“It was so regular that the older cops joked they should have sign up sheets for perps to fill in before they committed the  quota of small time offences” they were delegated in the county.)

The Echo Maker by Richard Powers read by Bernadette Dunne

She is a portrait of competence. She works for the big distributor of computers that packaged itself after cows. She has a knack for customer relations. She enjoys convincing users, individual by individual, that the big company wants nothing more than to make nice and relate, long term. She has removed all excess from her life, all things huge, or insubstantial.

We find her in a hospital room waiting for her brother to come back to life, as if she is watching some overlong Swedish film… A problematic brother, liked by animals, but “…when it came to humans no one knew what to make of the boy…. “. The problematic boy, Mark, has been damaged.

The language is full bodied, rich, ripe, generously given. All in good time. Bernadette Dunne, as usual, is remarkable. She narrates people thinking in low, cool tones, as if she were playing jazz for a small group of friends.

Slowly, slowly, the author mixes in big words, medical words, technical words to explain the misadventures and mistakes of the brain, configuring the brain as a fabulous animal which never stays the same. Mark’s brain is not what it was before the accident; it cannot recognize the familiar as familiar, cannot recognize his sister as the same sister, his friends as the same friends, his dog as the same dog. This misrecognition effects another: the sister who is not recognized by her brother slowly doubts her own identity, which dissolves into a piece of a town, a piece of a bed, a piece of a river…

In the middle of fields of Nebraska wheat, one theory of the brain folds into another, from a brain that tells stories, to a brain which functions like boy scouts waving their flashlights in the dark, to the brain as a series of mappings of other brain-maps,

My brain, all those split parts trying to convince each other, dozens of lost scouts waving crappy flashlights in the woods at night….

The brother, the sister, his girlfriend, a nurse’s aid, a cognitive neurologist from SUNY Stony Brook having a mid-life identity crisis…all of them unable to recognize themselves, unable, too, to recognize other beings, or other species… Hence, too, an ecological crisis: all species depend upon recognition, or go extinct….

Alice in Jeopardy by Ed McBain read by Bernadette Dunne

In Cape October during the rainy season, but May is not the rainy season, you can expect a thunder storm along about 3 or 4 every afternoon… The rain when it comes mercilessly assaults the sidewalk and the streets. . . But the heat and the humidity follow as closely behind the storm as does a rapist his victim. Within minutes, you’re sweating again. This is not the rainy season, this is May, but at 3 o clock that afternoon the rain is coming down in buckets.

A fundamental law of Hemingway holds true for Ed McBain: if it is raining at the beginning of the chapter, there’s going to be sex by the end of the chapter. McBain is edgier, angrier, and New York funny, even when describing South Florida.

Did you ever go to bed with Alice?
This is now 3 o’clock in the morning. Around 3 o’clock in the morning they all ask you to start cataloging all the women you’ve ever slept with.

McBain  chronicles telephone conversations, everyday speech,  questions, commands, exclamations : between widows and out of town businessmen and redneck cops, truck drivers and sisters in law, white trash and nosy neighbors and nosy reporters, the way a real estate agent shows off a house… or a Cape:

Every discourse as smooth as single malt Scotch on fast ice.

A Deeper Sleep by Dana Stabenow read by Bernadette Dunne

The Ninilta Native Association is run by Aunties – fierce old women who knit and protect native women and define the small life of the large territory called The Park. One of the Aunties belongs to Kate Shugak and functions, among other things, as a creditor.

We give you time, Katya. You almost get killed when you stop bad man . . . and you come home to heal. Ok we let you heal. We even give you puppy to let you heal. You fight with your Imah. She dies. We let you mourn. Your man die. We let you mourn some more. Your house burn down. We build you another. We give you life, we send you to school, and then instead of coming home like you should have you take job in Anchorage… What about us? Your people?

Kate knows well that the human geography of the Park is a map of old and odd relationships, and that these relationships are to the right and to the left and to the side of the law that comes from the State.

What wasn’t Park was wilderness and what wasn’t wilderness was wildlife refuge. Less than one percent of it was privately owned…

A fraction belongs to those who came during the goldrush in 1898 when the Park was created around them. Another fraction belongs to the native Alaskans who traded the right of way to oil for money and land. These are called Park Rats.

Among these Rats is a murderer. Find out who…

The Shadow Catcher by Marianne Wiggins read by Bernadette Dunne (!)

I am reading, no hearing, a beautiful book where a photograph is described:

This is us when we are happy is not the message that Alice Roosevelt’s wedding delivers…and unlike Alice Roosevelt who continued to be an unrepentant thorn in her father’s side even after Teddy’s death, all the Curtis children never stopped believing “Chief” could do no wrong, never stopped believing Chief was the perfect father, even after absences of many years, never stopped seeking Chief’s approval.

The woman who gives this sharp, tenderized commentary on Edward Curtis, father, renegade husband and shadow-catcher is at the wheel of a car in L.A., stuck in traffic. She tells us about Edward with the same familiarity that she tells us about the shortcut (Fountain Avenue) she will take, the shortcut everyone takes, the shortcut each of the 30 million drivers currently sharing the road believes that they alone discovered.

He became, she tells us,

by disappearing from their daily lives, not a father but the myth of one, a myth they needed to believe in to survive. And despite his actions, despite all contrary evidence, they needed to sustain that system of belief even if it meant altering their memory, creating a false memory, a false identity of who their father really was. If Edward, the disappearing father was to play the good guy in their system of belief, then someone anyone had to play the villain because surely there was real unhappiness in their home in everything around them… and someone , never dad, no never him, someone else had to take the blame… the person who was too tired to cook dinner after working all day long, that other unromantic parent asleep at the stove in her flannel slippers, stressed out and exhausted: mom….”

And as she drives and thinks and turns her thoughts over, and over, she assembles the person of Edward Curtis, and how this photographer intersects with the structure of the family, how he poses and positions himself within the family so as to appear a certain way, to seem a certain way. This seeming was in fact his art.

It is no wonder that there is an aura of indeterminacy surrounding this shadow-catcher, an uncertainty arising from the distance he put between himself and his world, himself and his own century.

And with this distance comes a mystery, a puzzle which is reconnoitred but not entirely solved by the story we are told about a man who sets up a photography studio in Seattle just after the fire…

Bernadette Dunne reads Work Less Make More by Jennifer White

This is so well read, so well thought out, so well organized that it stands out as a motherlode of precious advise for anybody who wants to work better, be better, CHANGE.

Remember your fifth grade teacher? The one that was a little pretty, a little strict, a little scary? The one that somehow taught you short division? Well, here she is. Standing over you while you pull out your journal, and think carefully before you answer.

Structured like a 5th grade workbook divided into modules, with fact sets, homework questions, thinking assignments, and morals (i.e. the moral of this story is ______), it turns you, inevitably, into a fifth grader: in other words, a student.

Buy a composition book, two #2 pencils, and a big eraser.

P.S. I Love You by Cecilia Ahern Narrated by Bernadette Dunne

Holly is a youngish, prettyish, slightly loopy, Dublinite whose happy husband tells her what to do. Everybody jokes that if Gerry ever died, he would have to leave her a list … and when he dies, he does. Leave a list. Sort of. Holly is given 10 envelopes, with instructions, signed P.S. I love you….

Yes, it works. The instructions… and the story. Holly gets by with a little help from her friends. Sweet, well accented, light and funny.

Posted By: admin ()  Date: 12/08/2004 1:13 pm   Status: Open

Crouching Buzzard, Leaping Loon by Donna Andrews read by Bernadette Dunne

Geek gaming firm with mascots (wounded buzzard, psychopathic dog) sets up shop in small Western town but needs a Wendy to clean up and organize the Peter Pans. Enter Californian Meg Lanslow to clean up their books – and before she finds out whats going on everybody’s least favorite programmer is murdered…. Is it the shrink with a radio show who gives advice to lovesick husbands? Is it the nasty capitalist landlord? Is it one of the temps? Funny, witty and perfectly read by the singular voice of Bernadette Dunne.