Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Out of My Head

Unknown (A Special Edition of Out of My Head*)
by Didier Van Cauweleart; translated by Mark Polizzotti
narrated by Bronson Pinchot
4.30 hours

Martin Harris arrives in Paris and, in the rush to return to the airport to collect his forgotten laptop, grabs a cab. Unfortunately, the cab is involved in an accident with a truck and Martin ends up in a coma for three days. When he wakes up, no one recognizes him - not his wife, not his neighbors, not the doorman... he has become unknown. Martin sets about to prove his identity and reclaim his wife, his life and his career.

Van Cauweleart has created, for the most part, a great psychological thriller from the first person point of view. The listener is privy to the thoughts of Martin - his bewilderment, stubbornness, frustrations and doubts - as he careens through Paris with the help and support of a female cab driver in his efforts not only to gather evidence as to who is is; but to discredit the man who is claiming to be him! Successive sections of the story are built with tantalizing clues and intriguing possible explanations - all embedded in the scenes' details and dialogues. This is not story driven by action/adventure as much as it is upon the subtle terrors and perceptions of the mind. But what exactly is going on? Not only does Martin not know, but the listener doesn't either. There is no sense of imminent danger, only a case of what may be identity theft and a vague conspiracy; or maybe it's just a matter of guilt and paranoia. Out of My Head has confused bafflement with suspense and, unfortunately, the author seems to have exhausted his burgeoning talent for creating a psychological thriller and instead opted for a cheap ending.

Bronson Pinchot, who can be seen on DIY network's The Bronson Pinchot Project, is the American narrator for Out of My Head. He perfectly inhabits the character of Martin and of special note is the argument between Martin and... Martin! Martin, and the-man-claiming-to-be-Martin have a showdown of memories, each trying to prove that he is the true Martin. The dialogue is fast and, as the recountings escalate in tenor the longer the confrontation draws out, one can hear the frustrations and smugness of each of the men as they stake their claims. It is an absurd conversation that could never actually happen; but Bronson Pinchot makes it sound natural.

* The original name of the book is Out of My Head and it is under the original title that the submission to the APA/Audie judges was made. Upon the release of the movie, Unknown (starring Liam Neeson,) which was based on the story, the audio edition was renamed Unknown ( A Special Edition of Out of My Head.) The cover art was changed to that of the movie poster art.

Convo Starter:
The hardback edition of this story is under 200 pages long, making it a short novel or novella by definition. A short novel is a testament to an author's skill in that it takes quite a bit of literary craftsmanship to deliver the story with enough detail to make it all work; but there is no room for extensive backstory or digressive ruminations that might otherwise add character depth or plot nuance. While this may at first seem like a limitation, it allows the reader room to project or imagine things into the novel. For instance, "3:10 to Yuma" (short story by Elmore Leonard) is a spare but complete story that has been made into a film twice and, both times the essence of the story, what Elmore Leonard wrote, was integrated into the screenplay; and yet what the screenwriters added in, in terms of backstory and other details, created vastly different results. Do you see the the short form as a concentrated story form, or as a writer's abridgment?

See Also:
Armchair Audies (The Bad Employee/Bad Wife Edition - Inaugural Post)
"3:10 to Yuma" (Audiobook Review)

Other Stuff:

Unknown (A Special Edition of Out of My Head; by Didier Van Cauweleart; translated by Mark Polizzotti; narrated by Bronson Pinchot) qualifies for:

I received a MP3-CD edition of Unknown (A Special Edition of Out of My Head; by Didier Van Cauweleart; translated by Mark Polizzotti; narrated by Bronson Pinchot) from Blackstone Audio, Inc. under reviewer auspices. I had no involvement in the production of Unknown (A Special Edition of Out of My Head; by Didier Van Cauweleart; translated by Mark Polizzotti; narrated by Bronson Pinchot.) I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.


  1. I was just telling Bob I've still never listened to Pinchot. I must remedy this!

    1. Bronson truly is extraordinary as a narrator! I've listened to a few audio books that he has narrated (The Learners by Chip Kidd; Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes and; Caribou Island by David Vann) and he brings something unique and excellent to every book.