An Audiobook Review: The Original Odd Couple.


 

The Diaries of Adam & Eve: Translated by Mark Twain

By Mark Twain

Unabridged recording published by Fair Oaks Audio

Read by Mandy Patinkin, Barbara Buckley and Walter Cronkite

 

The Story:

Eve is a bright, endearing and inquisitive character. She is want to turn over rocks to see what might be hiding beneath and tries to understand the world around her in a most scientific method. She would be the one to push the big red button marked “Do not push” just to see what might happen. Adam, on the other hand, is somewhat lazy and willing to take the world as he finds it. He is not unintelligent, but neither does he seem particularly curious. What is, is to him. When Eve is out naming everything in sight, he wonders why any of those things even need a name. Can these two people share the Garden of Eden without driving each other crazy? Stay tuned!

This piece has an interesting history in that it is not how Twain published it, but according to Walter Cronkite’s introduction, this is the way Twain would have liked to publish it. The original was published in two pieces, Adam’s Diary first and then Eve’s some twelve years later. Hearing them interleaved together it is difficult imagining them as two separate works. They parallel each other closely, frequently giving one’s point of view and then the other’s. They score points (and the introduction says) off each other and without the two parts side-by-side the reader is not likely to notice. Further, much of the warmth and humor is lost when Adam and Eve’s diaries are apart. So it is good that the Fair Oaks Press decided to present them together so we may understand and enjoy them the way Twain would have liked.

Twain, for the purpose of these stories claimed to have translated these diaries, although from what language I doubt he ever tried to imagine. Had he been around about fifty or sixty years later he might have claimed to have found a collection of clay tablets while traveling through Mesopotamia… Did he ever get to Mesopotamia? I am not sure, but he did seem to go almost everywhere else. So perhaps he was translating from Sumerian… Perhaps I am over thinking this… Yes, that does seem more likely. Back to the book.

It is obvious that Twain loved his Eve character and imbued in her all the best possible characteristics. This is confirmed at the end of the book when it is revealed that he had modeled Eve after his beloved wife, Olivia (Livy) Langdon and that he, no doubt, identified himself with Adam. However, the romance of Adam and Eve dose not exactly parallel that of Twain and Livy and perhaps just as well. It has been said this is probably the most personal writing accomplished by Twain and certainly gives us insights into his own life and love, second only to his autobiography, Volume One of which was published just a few years ago.

In any case, Eve seems to get the better of Adam repeatedly throughout the story and one can imagine that disagreements might well have gone along similar lines between Twain and Livy. Maybe they did or not, but that is the feeling I get. So when Eve puts her foot down about something or other, Adam must accept it whether he wants to or not. Adam frequently goes off on his own pursuits, hoping to find Eve’s latest fascination has waned on his return. In that he is almost always disappointed, of course.

Over half the story takes place before the “Fall.” Twain’s own scientific method of thought comes through as the two first people discover and learn about the world around them. After the Fall from Eden, the tale skips ahead, sometimes years at a time. The next major event is the birth of Cain, for which Adam was apparently not around at the time (Probably out hunting) so that he thinks the new creature is, at first, some sort of fish and then later a distant relative of the kangaroos. He apparently was not “in town” when Abel was born as well, and it is uncertain when he finally learned that all these new children (according to Eve they have a dozen or more) have something to do with Eve and, possibly, himself. Well, perhaps such a scene of enlightenment was not necessary since anyone reading the story would know where babies came from and would know how not to harm them while looking under the cabbage leaves.

The story peters out very quickly following Abel’s death. Eve has a brief monologue on how it was unfair to make eating from the Tree of Life a crime for which they were banished from Eden and condemned to die, when at the time they had no idea of what death was. In an earlier scene Eve and Adam considered eating the fruit simply to learn about death. The entire text ends poignantly at Eve’s grave with Adam’s eulogy, “Wherever she was, there was Eden.”

In this edition, a few other tidbits of Twain’s related writings are added in, but they are mere appendices to the real story which is told with love, empathy and humor.

 

The Audiobook:

I absolutely loved Betty Buckley’s portrayal of Eve. She takes the first woman from innocent child to maturely wise woman in the perfect gradual steps throughout the book, and yet ion her voice you can still hear the fascination with everything in the world around her. Mandy Patinkin, did an excellent job too, but I could not help but think he did not have as much to work with. Adam is a lazy, sometimes surly and taciturn character. He is interested in learning about the world and everything in it, but for him it seems like a part of his job. He does it because that’s what he is supposed to do. Eve learns for the sheer joy of learning, or at least that is the impression I get.

The text of the story is bookended by Walter Cronkite, who reads the Introduction and Afterword, in what was one of his last recordings. Cronkite’s familiar voice (well familiar to me anyone else who grew up listening to him on the CBS Nightly News) adds a perfect bit of gravitas to this compilation of Twain’s writings.

Definitely; read and listen to this book. It is worth the time.

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This entry was posted in Audio Books, Books, Commentary, Fantasy, Humor, Mark Twain, Reviews, Satire and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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