Book Article

Pulp, Politics, and Pillow Talk

Books on tape -- ''Paradise,'' ''Beast,'' and ''Fire in the Belly'' are some of the titles reviewed

Paradise
Judith McNaught; read by Lisa Eichhorn
Will romance blossom or wither in the hallowed halls of business? A department store president and a wildcat oil tycoon struggle to find a love they lost as star-crossed kids. It's all believable and heartwarming enough to make you root for the lovely couple. B+

You Just Don't Understand
Deborah Tannen; featuring the author
Boy meets girl. Boy talks to girl. Girl wonders what boy said. Tannen's hugely popular exploration of the different meanings that men and women invest in their words comes alive on tape, spiced with examples that allow listeners to hear for themselves; the author's own analysis is both thought-provoking and accessible. A-

The Innocent
Ian McEwan; read by David Dukes
Menace seeps from every corner of McEwan's Cold War Berlin, the dank and creepy setting for this quietly devastating tale of corruption and despair. Dukes inhabits the British spy of the title with understated flair, creating a mesmerizing portrait of a hapless man stumbling toward a violent conclusion as unsettling as it is inevitable. A-

Thunder of Erebus
Payne Harrison; read by John Rubinstein
When a safe, newly discovered energy source is found in Antarctica, the superpowers threaten to destroy the planet to get control of the ore. Rubinstein's reading and a chilling background track build the polar cap into an eerily convincing battleground for the coldest war. B+

Beast
Peter Benchley; read by David Rasche
Benchley's latest dive is ideal for summer-fiction slumming, thanks to an energetic, outsize performance from Rasche, who, like the author, will stop at nothing to keep the audience entertained. Maybe Beast can't measure up to Jaws, but at this clip there's not much time for comparison. A-

Boss of Bosses
Joseph F. O'Brien and Andris Kurins; read by James Naughton
This breezy true-crime tale of two FBI agents who hunted and snared mob boss Paul Castellano is good vicarious fun. However dark and dangerous the Mafia is said to be, it nevertheless appears an easy adversary in this rapid-fire narrative. B+

The Politics of Rich and Poor
Kevin Phillips; read by the author
The dirty laundry of the Reagan era is hung out to dry in this sad, detailed account of why the rich get richer and the poor remain the same. The abridgment keeps the information concise and the political accusations pointed. B

As the Crow Flies
Jeffrey Archer; read by Alec McCowen
A skillful combination of friendly, appealing characters and an unexpected plot make this rags-to-riches saga good-natured, thoroughly escapist fun. McCowen is a master of British accents — an all-star miniseries cast of one. A

Fire in the Belly
Sam Keen; read by the author
Another message from the men's movement. One man's journey to find himself becomes Everyman's journey into his inner being. Keen's story develops an epic quality as we travel with him toward self-discovery. A provocative observer of the difficult fit between contemporary society and modern manhood, he manages to exit on an upbeat and inspirational note. A

Originally posted Aug 30, 1991 Published in issue #81 Aug 30, 1991 Order article reprints