Monday, October 27, 2008

Roger's Version by John Updike (unabridged audio book read by Michael Prichard)

A born-again computer whiz kid bent on proving the existence of God on his computer meets a middle-aged divinity professor, Roger Lambert, who'd just as soon leave faith a mystery. Soon the computer hacker begins an affair with professor Lambert's wife — and Roger finds himself experiencing deep longings for a trashy teenage girl.

That's what the marketing department of Ballantine Books says Roger's Version is about. And, really, that description does summarize the high points. Surprisingly, they've left out the fact that the "trashy teenage girl" is the daughter of Roger's half-sister. Wouldn't that little taste of partial incest bring in a few more readers? At least, the ones who are already familiar with author John Updike's specialty: what I like to call "the dalliances of adulterous suburbanites."

Only this time, Updike also adds in discussions about religion, computers, and astrophysics culled from the best minds in these areas (check out the Acknowledgments page for credits). In addition, also talked about freely are politics, economics, and modern music (the book is practically soundtracked to Cyndi Lauper's She's So Unusual).

In this way, Roger's Version is like an undergraduate-level class on these subjects delivered with Updike's typically gorgeous prose — and peppered with illicit trysts to keep the reader's interest. Reader Michael Prichard is the perfect audiobook reader for Updike's work. His nearly flat tone gives equal gravity both to lengthy passages on erudite subjects and to nearly pornographic sexual situations (including a description of one character's erect member so detailed that the listener could practically draw it from memory).

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