The Memory of Running is both written and read by Ron McLarty, an actor, playwright and novelist who has written a lot, but read more.
Previously, I’ve reviewed Ron McLarty’s readng of Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King, and I gave that performance a solid 10 out of 10, on account of both King’s writing skills and McLarty’s reading skills. This one comes close.
Ron McLarty has one of the most hypnotic voices I’ve ever heard. Deep and sonorous though it may be, he is also able to use it to create everything from extreme suspense, to almost sleep-inducing calm when necessary in the story.
The Memory of Running is no different.
This is Ron McLarty’s debut as a novelist, and even though he spins a complicated story, he does so with an ease that many other and much more published authors will probably envy.
In it, McLarty describes Smithy Ide, a heavy smoker, and a heavy person who goes through life in a daze of nicotine, food, and mundane work while centering his existence on caring for his “mom and pop.” His sister, mentally ill and prone to running off is a constant — if one can call it that — and the only apparent light at the end of his tunnel, the younger girl next door Norma, is seemingly snuffed out by a terrible accident.
When his parents are killed in a traffic accident, Smithy — who finds a letter stating that his sister’s body is in a morgue in Los Angeles — takes to the road on his bike on a journey to retrieve her remains from a mortuary on the opposite coast. On his journey, he is both followed by, and following, the ghost of his sister and the shadow of Norma, who still cares deeply about him behind the closed blinds of her house.
McLarty is reading his own work in this audio version of The Memory of Running, and his career and history as a playwright and actor shines through in his novel writing skills. He uses images that many will find troubling and unusual, but most will get used to this during the reading of the book, or the listening to the book, in this case. McLarty reading his own work benefits the text in other ways as well, namely in that he knows it best, and can read it the way he heard it the first time himself. It is known to anyone who has heard him talk about his writing methods that McLarty reads every chapter out loud to himself after it is done, to make sure that it is readable, the text is good, and that it sounds well. In other words, his books are made to be read aloud, which makes them ideal for the audiobook format, and McLarty’s own voice.
The book itself, and its story, is a strange mix of fantasy and reality, with snippets and basic points collected from McLarty’s own childhood, and later experiences, and then made into a novel by building on them. It creates an air of truthfulness that other writers can’t achieve, or has a harder task achieving than McLarty has in his works — he also states himself that he has used elements from his own life experiences in everything he has written.
The avid reader, or audiobook listener, will notice one more characteristic about The Memory of Running that is hard to find in other publications: Ron McLarty’s sense of rhythm. The text and the words that form it flow in an extraordinary rhythm that will in places take you by surprise and make you rewind several times to hear it again, and to make sure that you heard it right, because you’ve possibly never heard anything like it. A little tip: watch out for the part where Smithy falls off the bike after colliding with a truck driven by a mortally ill man.
A conclusion to all of this praise is that Ron McLarty is a very capable writer, and he is a fantastic reader and performer when it comes to audiobooks. There is no doubt that anyone who is a fan of the format should buy this at once, and set aside time to really listen to it, turn off that TV and just listen to it. Ron McLarty delivers as usual, and this time not only by reading, but by having written the book as well.