AUDIOBOOKS: Short stories

Short stories, well written and well told, are on the menu this week.

Short stories, well written and well told, are on the menu this week.

Fresh Complaint
Jeffrey Eugenides; read by Eugenides, Ari Fliakos, Cynthia Nixon
Macmillan Audio, seven CDs, eight hours, $34.99/, $24.49

Eugenides, who received the Pulitzer Prize for Literature for his novel “Middlesex,” enthralls with each story as he writes comfortably and believably, regardless of the protagonists’ sex or background. The stories are both recent and decades old, and a general theme of personal crisis is at the heart of each. In “Complainers,” two older women find solace in friendship, and in “Baster,” you will recognize a better told version of the movie “The Switch.” Nixon’s voice is a little thin, but she narrates with quiet control and feeling, while the often-employed Fliakos uses his nimble voice to produce accents and attitudes that deftly match each tale. Grade: A

Five-Carat Soul
James McBride; read by Arthur Morey, Nile Bullock, Prentice Onayemi, Dominic Hoffman
Penguin Audio, eight CDs, nine hours, $35/, $24.50

National Book Award winner McBride has put together a collection of previously unpublished short stories that surprise the listener, as they start in one place and then take you on an unexpected journey. Four of the stories are linked to a middle-school boy band, the Five-Carat Soul Bottom Bone Band, from rural Pennsylvania. Others include telepathic animals, a priceless antique toy, and a sad/sweet tale set during the Civil War. The narrators are superb, conjuring up attitude, accents and youthful bravado. Their well-tuned performances add nuance to stories brimming with the human experience as realized in black America. Grade: A

The Relive Box and Other Stories
T.C. Boyle; read by the author
Harper Audio, seven hours and 16 minutes,, $21.67

Nature, our desire to control it and its desire to run wild, is at the heart of these stories by Boyle. Some, like the title tale, work better than others — the story about a 5-pound burrito seems rather pointless and less magical than it aims to be. For the most part, there is much dry humor peppered through his tales, and a few that are compelling for being so cautionary, such as, “You Don’t Miss the Water,” about California droughts. Boyle is a surprisingly adept reader for a non-actor. He occasionally sounds a little unpolished, but for the most part, inhabits his characters with a kind of exactness only an author can fully articulate. Grade: B-plus