A Frothy Romp Told With Pep and Sass

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

First-time novelist and Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer Jennifer Weiner has written a lightweight comic romp about a heavyweight, wisecracking entertainment writer for a fictional Philadelphia newspaper.

"Good in Bed" is not a bad listen, though the abridgment renders it less amusing than the written book. (Simon & Schuster Audio, abridged fiction; four cassettes; five hours; $25; read by Paula Cale. Also available on five CDs; five hours, $32.)

Cannie Shapiro, a pop culture journalist and part-time screenwriter, decides she needs a break from Bruce Guberman, her pot-smoking, graduate student boyfriend of three years. Shortly thereafter, she finds herself the topic of Bruce's first "Good in Bed" column in a popular women's magazine.

Not only does he disclose embarrassingly details, but he also begins his betrayal by admitting that "Loving a larger woman is an act of courage in our world .... " After this dual treachery of a broken confidence and being called fat in public, Cannie sets off a chain of events that affects every part of her life, from her relationship with her mother to her health and her career.

The story is full of energy and moves at a fast clip, although it is unlikely you will remember it a month after the last cassette unwinds. This is due in part to the short shrift given to some of the characters in the abridgment. Cannie is written very much as a real woman, and the people surrounding her are interesting in their own way.

Unfortunately, her love interest, a kindly doctor heading a weight-loss clinic, is given very little space. In the print version his role is more developed and therefore more realistic. In the audio he is almost a deus ex machina , appearing as needed but leaving us wondering why she turned to him in the first place. He was not around long enough to really whet her interest.

Paula Cale is a lively narrator who captures the novel's sassy humor. Her voice can be weak and a bit nasal, but she has plenty of pep. She expresses Cannie's turmoil as well as her ability to filter life's disasters through humor. Cale also captures the strength and cynicism that accompany Cannie's unique perspective.

The narrator's British accent is acceptable, but her Russian accent sounds like a cartoon character from Transylvania.

Available only on audio, the latest short story by Stephen King is more humorous than horrifying. "LT's Theory of Pets" chronicles one man's concept of pet ownership, though the story turns from humor to horror before it ends. (Simon & Schuster Audio, unabridged fiction, one cassette, one hour, $15, read by the author. Also available on one CD, one hour, $15.)

LT, who works at a meat-packing plant, enjoys regaling co-workers with the story of the dog given to him by his wife, and the cat he gave her in return. The tale is ultimately about their marriage, and its resolution, because the couple end up fighting like proverbial cats and dogs until she walks out.

King's dialogue is realistic and much funnier than expected, but the ending is weak. Had this been part of a collection, it may not have mattered, though in a collection it probably would have garnered little attention.

The story is enjoyable and surprisingly witty, but it is nothing extraordinary. It certainly doesn't deserve to be packaged alone with a $15 price tag.

King recorded this before a live audience at London's Royal Festival Hall. As this was not taped in a controlled environment, background noise and reverberation are noticeable. King is introduced by a hokey speech, and the author mentions a question-and-answer period that isn't included in the production.

Thankfully, King does a fine job with his material. Sounding like a New Englander firmly entrenched in the working class, he changes his voice for different characters. No one could have been more familiar with the material, and he squeezes the humor for all it is worth.

*

Next week: Dick Lochte on mystery books.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
68°