Impossible Owls

10 CDs. HighBridge Audio. Oct. 2018. 11:30 hrs. ISBN 9781684414604. $39.99. digital download. LIT
These eight essays are largely unrelated but cover a variety of interesting topics. Phillips details a trip to fly bush planes to cover the Iditarod, a Sumo wrestling tournament with a side trip to track down an aging Japanese revolutionary, the rise and fall of the founder of ConocoPhillips and his wife, who was also his adopted daughter, and more. The writing is clever and humorous, but there are moments when Phillips wants to make sure that the reader knows just how clever he is and slips into pretension. His perspective is heavily incorporated into his works, bringing a more personal feeling, but also leads to digressions that may or may not support his point. Despite the flaws, these essays are transporting and engrossing. Steve Menasche is a perfectly serviceable and pleasant reader, but he does fall down in a few respects. His voice suggests a significantly older person than the writer and that dissonance is accentuated because of the way the essays express the author's personality. The mispronunciation of certain foreign words may also break the flow for some listeners.
VERDICT Recommended for fans of NPR's Driveway Moments, short-form history, and highbrow periodicals. ["Phillips's essays are not only fascinating and thoroughly researched but written in a distinctive voice that conveys humor, awareness, and vulnerability": LJ 7/18 review of the Farrar hc.]

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