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Archive for Sunday, July 30, 2000

Roadtrip selections ‘Potter,’ ‘Me Talk Pretty’ make miles fly

July 30, 2000

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Audio booksellers usually pine for a new John Grisham, but they certainly haven't needed a lawyer yarn this year. July 2000 will instead be memorialized in their account as the summer of "Harry" and David.

"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" -- perhaps you've heard of it? -- is the first J.K. Rowling book to be released in print and audio simultaneously. Those copies of "Goblet" (Listening Library, unabridged, $39.95) may still be unspooling its 20-hour length in cars everywhere. Like the previous Potter books, "Goblet" is read in its American edition by Jim Dale, the actor known for the musical "Barnum" and the movie "Pete's Dragon." (The English audio is read by actor and novelist Stephen Fry.)

Jim Dale is an extraordinary reader who has developed distinguishable voices for the whole Hogwarts cast without ever sounding less than natural. His performance is as classic as the books themselves, and no Potter fan should miss hearing at least some of the vast audio edition.

Dale is an extraordinary reader who has developed distinguishable voices for the whole Hogwarts' cast without ever sounding less than natural. His performance is as classic as the books themselves, and no Potter fan should miss hearing at least some of the vast audio edition. (Deal with the expense by getting on the library's waiting list, or forming an audio co-op; a group of seven families -- one for each book in Rowling's series -- ought to amortize things nicely.)

Meanwhile, David Sedaris, comic autobiographer/radio star/chain smoker, has recorded his latest book, "Me Talk Pretty One Day" (Time Warner, 5 hours, unabridged essays, $19.98). It's a collection about evenly divided between his youth (in North Carolina and art school) and his present-day life in France, where he wrestles hilariously with language lessons in the manner of his title.

I want whatever medication Sedaris is on: This book is the work of a kinder, gentler dark humorist. His early work, in "Holidays on Ice," "Naked" and "Barrel Fever," was always hilarious, but sometimes so laced with wormwood that it could make you gag. (It's hard to like yourself after laughing at his portrait of himself as a lightswitch-licking child with obsessive-compulsive disorder, for example. Or that Christmas-newsletter parody with the dead infant.) "Me Talk Pretty One Day" is the work of a happier writer -- one who remains gimlet-eyed (even as he jokes about drinking less).

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