Narrator: David Hyde Pierce
Published by Audible Studios on December 14, 2010
Source: Audible Plus
Genres: Classic, Comic, Satire
Length: 9 hrs 52 mins
Purchase at Bookshop.org or Audible
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Four-time Emmy Award winner David Hyde Pierce is famous for playing the lovably self-important Dr. Niles Crane in the hit TV series Frasier. Now, he brings the same wit and charming arrogance to his Signature Classics performance of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.
More than just a mock travel book and fabulous adventure, Gulliver’s Travels is a character study and social satire that skewers politics, science, religion, philosophy, and pretentiousness with a bite and resonance that remains as fresh today as the day it was published. Maybe that’s why it hasn’t been out of print in nearly 300 years.
Set sail with David Hyde Pierce for a smart, fun, new Gulliver’s Travels experience that’s unlike any other.
While I’m sure Gulliver’s Travels is a masterpiece and has much to say about human society, politics, racism, what have you, I didn’t enjoy it. It was a bit boring and I found myself not really caring what Swift was trying to say.
Our narrator is Lemuel Gulliver, a ship’s surgeon who ends up going on four fantastical journeys. The first Gulliver adventure is the most famous one, in the land of Lilliputians where the people 15.24 centimeters tall. Here Swift highlights the human tendency to consider themselves the most important creatures despite their small size, being unaware of their insignificance in the universe. He also shows their absurd justice system and their obsession with rules.
On the next adventure, Gulliver visits the land of Brobdingnag, a land of giants. So, an individual’s dominance is a relative concept, as where Gulliver was powerful in Lilliput, here he is vulnerable and almost insignificant. The king and queen treat Gulliver as a kind of toy, amusing.
Gulliver’s third adventure is in the land of Laputa, floating island Swifts uses for satire of scholars, scientists, and philosophers. Lauptans know complex geometry but are at the same unable to build proportionate houses or make a decent suit. Their theoretical knowledge is deeply impractical.
The last adventure takes Gulliver to the land of noble talking horses, Houyhnhnms. Houyhnhnms use the benefits of a rational mind combined with moral virtues, creating a country where the common good is of the greatest value. Houyhnhnms tell only truth and live without lies, injustice, corruption, diseases, in an atmosphere of seemingly minimal suffering and inequality. Houyhnhnms rule over the Yahoos- the savage, hairy, primitive, animal-like men.
Maybe Gulliver’s Travels is a book better read with a group so you can discuss it together and laugh at the absurdity of the stories. Gulliver is a bit of a jerk, seeing all everyone else’s faults but none of his. When he finally gets home at the end, he won’t let his wife near him because she’s not a horse. And really the funny parts are just not that amusing.
I listened to the audio, narrated by David Hyde Pierce, who did a great job, unsurprisingly. I think listening to it was a good choice. I have a feeling the style and spellings, etc would have made it drag for me in print.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
It’s one of those that I’m glad I read, but probably won’t read again.