As noted in a previous post, I only recently saw the second Godfather movie. What prompted my seeing it was the audiobook of the novel The Goodfather by Mario Puzo, which I had been listening to and only just finished. The audiobook was a full cast reading. Most audiobooks are read by a single narrator, but a few rare gems use a full cast of actors to play the role of every character in the novel. The effect is like listening to a movie, and I mean that as a compliment. It’s easy to follow the dialogue because you grow accustomed to the actors’ voices. And since each of them insert their own unique performance into their respective roles, you get more emotion and delivery than is often heard from a single voice.
The Godfather deserves to be the great classic it has become, but in my opinion, this is one instance in which the movie (or movies, plural, since the second Godfather movie also came from the book) is better than the novel. Puzo takes too many tangents, following minor characters and their respective plights rather than sticking closely with the Corleone family wherein lies the heart of the story. The most frequent tangents follow Johnny Fontaine, the crooner/movie star who is supposedly based on Frank Sinatra. I kept wanting to speed-listen through these parts and get back to the real story.
But Puzo is a master of narrative drive. He kept me going with the anticipation of something about to happen. Video games use the same principal: put the gamer through a scenario that will take him nearly to the limit of his tolerance, than introduce a new obstacle. It keeps players going for hours. And Puzo can establish an impending action with a single sentence at the end of the chapter. He won’t let you stop reading . . . or in my case, stop listening.
The Godfather will always remain a masterwork of storytelling. It’s a great saga. Few authors can make such sinister people so endearing and so worth following. And the tension is palpable. When Michael Corleone kills Sollozzo and the police captain in the Italian restaurant, I was on the edge of my seat. The audiobook scene was just as riveting as the scene in the film.
The biggest negative of the novel, however, is that Puzo spends far too much time on sex. Everybody has sex. And it’s not enough to simply insinuate that they do or even say that they do. Puzo has to describe the sex act with vivid and graphic detail. He’s not content simply telling us they had sex. He has to tell us what TYPE of sex they had. I found myself rolling my eyes and reaching for the fast forward button more times than I cared for. It gave me the sense that Puzo was a perverted old man, which probably isn’t true. Puzo was just a product of his time; The Godfather was written at the height of the sexual revolution, after all. Not that books didn’t depict sex before then, but I doubt they did to the same degree. Anyway, despite the abundance of the nasty, The Godfather is quiate possibly the greatest crime novel of all time. And if you’re going to take a stab at, I suggest the audiobook cast recording.