LISTENER

Graham G Grant

  • 40
  • reviews
  • 25
  • helpful votes
  • 46
  • ratings

How freedom of expression became an ‘aesthetic death wish’

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 29-09-19

As a corrective to the endless virtue-signalling of liberal American as it experienced a collective post-Trump nervous breakdown, this is a masterpiece you won’t want to end. There’s waspish wisdom throughout, and a strong element of memoir, as Ellis looks back on his career, with a particular focus on American Psycho (in which Trump is a recurring character). He also recounts meetings with celebrities including Tarantino. Whatever your politics (and Ellis didn’t vote for Trump), this is an intelligent, funny and thought-provoking book by a fiction writer who has evolved into a fiery and compelling polemicist.

Voice of a killer?

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 22-09-19

The disappearance and suspected murder of Suzanne Pilley ranks as one of the most notorious cases in Scottish criminal history. Here David Gilroy, her lover and the man convicted of killing her, is interviewed from prison, and the evidence that sent him to jail for a life sentence is re-examined as he prepares for another appeal. I approached this with caution as I’d never doubted Gilroy’s guilt, but the podcast does highlight the extent to which the case against him rested on highly circumstantial evidence, with zero forensics. At the very least, it’s unlikely you’ll complete this series without questioning whether an innocent man was wrong jailed.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

A story of obsession, lust, despair - and revenge

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 21-09-19

Alternating between rural France, where an elderly villa owner and his sister look after a crumbling villa, and London, where an ageing antiques dealer contemplates his increasingly empty life, this is a novel that morphs from a relatively gentle story into a dark thriller about lust, long-buried family secrets and naked revenge. That transformation makes it a beguiling listen.

How Joy Division lost control

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-09-19

Joy Division bassist Peter Hook provides a forensic and searingly honest account of life inside a band whose premature end didn’t prevent it becoming hugely influential. It’s funny - quite a feat given the sometimes harrowing subject matter - and well-paced, with plenty of frank anecdotes. It’s a candid and compulsive listen as it builds to the inevitable climax of Ian Curtis’s suicide, on the eve of the band’s US tour. Recommended for fans, but also for anyone interested in the pitfalls of fame and the inner workings of the music business in the late 1970s and early ‘80s. Hook’s narration is warm, witty and conversational. The exhaustive accounts of set lists for every gig perhaps work better in a conventional, rather than an audio, book; it can get a bit dull, but Hook throws in memories and anecdotes about chaotic shows that descend into mass brawls, or the intense competition with rival bands. A really masterful memoir.

Where chivalry meets the wild frontier

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 27-08-19

This is a story probably better known, at least in the UK, for its movie adaptations, including the John Wayne classic. But the novel is a masterpiece in its own right, as Donna Tartt argues in an excellent afterword. The story of a bright young girl, Matty Ross, the narrator, seeking revenge for her father’s murder, True Grit explores her partnership with Rooster Cogburn, a jaded, heavy-drinking deputy US Marshall, with a reputation for shooting first and asking questions later, as they go on the trail of the killer, Tom Chainey, and the bandit gang of which he’s a member. Their adventures are related from Matty’s viewpoint in a marvellously deadpan style. Donna Tartt, author of modern classics The Secret History and The Goldfinch, and The Little Friend - also narrated from a young girl’s point of view - tells the story in a wonderfully evocative southern drawl. She’s an enigmatic figure, with limited public profile, which made her narration all the more fascinating. The novel’s plot really picks up momentum in the last hour or so; the finale and closing segments of the novel are masterfully done. For all fans of Westerns, and Tartt, this is obligatory listening.

Hook, line and sinker

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 23-08-19

I hadn’t seen the television series when I started listening to this audiobook, though now intend to catch up on it. There’s something relaxing and absorbing about the laidback but informed dialogue between the two, even if - like me - you’re not a fishing enthusiast. Some of the book is effectively memoir - for me, this was the strongest part - detailing the pair’s multiple, and very serious, health problems, which led them to make the programmes as a way of promoting the ‘healthy heart’ message to viewers, and now to listeners. It works so well partly because Bob Mortimer is a relative novice, or was before the show began, while Paul Whitehouse is a veteran angler. That means it’s accessible to all, even to those with no real interest in fishing; but it would be hard to finish the book and not feel like at least giving it a go. The book is largely dialogue, much of it with an ad lib feel. Towards the end, the level of technical detail about fishing does increase, and I found these segments a little less satisfying; but overall it’s unusual, nicely balanced, funny and well worth a listen.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

The greatest pop story ever told...

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 16-08-19

As a Beatles fan for a very long time, I imagined I’d read most of the key biographies/memoirs. I knew about Davies’ book, but assumed it was so widely quoted elsewhere that there would be limited point in reading it. In fact, this bumper edition, which includes various updates since the original publication date in 1968, and a long, revealing foreword, was gripping throughout. There’s a lot of detail I’d forgotten, or hadn’t ever come across before; Davies’ fly-on-the-wall account of Beatle life, including a Lennon and McCartney songwriting session, is fascinating. It’s a vivid snapshot, and particularly good on Brian Epstein. Epstein died before the book was published, and had been happy to be ‘outed’ in it as gay. But after his death, his mother Queenie vetoed this. The foreword provides this detail and other material that was left out. In some ways, the foreword is the most compelling section. The biography is authorised, and inevitably has a slightly ‘sanitised’ feel. But it works because Davies got astonishing access to friends, family and staff, at a key point in time - few of them had spoken publicly about the Beatles at any length prior to his book. Davies has a reassuringly level-headed approach to the subject, despite being a Beatle fan - the tone is worldly, and perhaps slightly dismissive of really obsessive Beatle fans. But again, it’s such an important historical document that true fans will enjoy it regardless. The narration is very good - the voice is similar to Davies’. Liverpudlian accents are attempted, and though not always accurate - maybe sounding more Midlands thank Scouse? - they do help to bring the text alive. An obligatory listen for all Beatles devotees, and those curious about the Fab Four’s amazing journey.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

‘We didn’t know what we were doing - and we insisted on doing it’

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-07-19

This is a riotous recap of Eric Idle’s career from TV comedian to self-confessed ‘legend’, name-checking countless celebrities from George Harrison to David Bowie. It’s always funny and candid, particularly on the effect of success (‘fame went to my balls’). On Python, Idle admits the team were clueless about the direction of the show (‘We didn’t know what we were doing - and we insisted on doing it.’) The book reminds you that Idle is the Python powerhouse, looking for new opportunities to sustain the brand (eg Spamalot). He seemed to enjoy himself more than the others, and there isn’t much creative angst. In this sense, it’s breezier than John Cleese’s more comprehensive and introspective memoir - rattling along with about a gag per 10 seconds. It’s the most listenable showbiz memoir I’ve come across, and shines a light on the Pythons’ influence and the breadth of their celebrity fan club, including rockers such as various Beatles and Stones, and comics from Robin Williams to Peter Cook, Steve Martin and Billy Connolly. Great fun and cleverly done without labouring detail - even if it does rather gloss over big life events (such as Idle’s marital breakup - though he is honest about his role in its failure: infidelity isn’t advisable, he says - it’s better to disappoint one woman at a time).

Inside Amy Schumer’s head

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-07-19

This memoir is a great insight into the art of standup comedy, and at its best when it examines Schumer’s rise to global fame, via a hard slog in pubs and clubs. Some of Schumer’s adolescent journals are unearthed and annotated with modern-day footnotes, containing Schumer’s observations on what she wrote many years ago. It’s a clever device, but over-used. Towards the end it’s a little ‘preachy’ and right-on, which is grating. But Schumer’s dedication to changing gun control laws is admirable. There were times when I considered abandoning this audiobook, but overall I’m glad I stuck with it - this is a must for all Schumer devotees.

Talkin’ ‘bout his generation

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 25-06-19

Daltrey seems by far the sanest member of The Who and their entourage, surrounded as he was by eccentrics, addicts, creative geniuses - and conmen. His own ability and stabilising influence shouldn’t be underestimated - as they have been (too often) by Pete and others - but perhaps his greatest achievement was simply keeping the band together, or reuniting them, at key times. For putting up with Pete, John and Keith, he deserves a medal... Daltrey is honest and engaging, and his conversational style is a perfect fit for the text. I raced through it, and it’s an ideal read even for those who may (like me) may not be diehard fans of the band, but are nonetheless interested in its evolution and its survival over a period of more than half a century, despite the deaths of two of its members, and Pete’s well-publicised legal problems. Well worth a listen for anyone interested in the history of rock, the nature of celebrity, and how to keep a band on the road amid huge personal, and often financial, turmoil...

1 of 1 people found this review helpful