Running the Light by Sam Tallent

Finished audiobook of Running the Light by Sam Tallent 📚

Really enjoyed this story focused on a week in the life of a once-celebrated and now-degenerated, mostly forgotten standup comic slogging his guts out at two-bit one-night stands. Tallent excels at describing the experience of being on stage as Billy Ray Schafer smokes, cokes, drinks, connives, and somehow lurches himself into the only activity that makes him feel alive, while his paranoia and guilt make him self-destruct on his way to the next venue. He’s feeling the light about to go (the book never explains what “running the light” stands for; it’s when the on-stage comic ignores the blinking light signaling the end of his set yet refuses to leave the stage) (though the book’s ending lends another meaning) and it’s time to take care of loose ends.

I thought the story was gripping, with great set-pieces and some startling violence – Billy Ray’s anger at himself and God is always ready to explode at the least provocation.

But the telling … oy. The audiobook may gain a frisson of interest as individual chapters are narrated by various stand-up comics, but their readings are wildly different, some of them are not good at all, I could never tell who was who in a dialogue, and the indifferent, variable sound recording for each narrator made me yearn for a good studio-produced recording with an actor/comic who could have lent consistency to the story’s telling so that I didn’t keep falling out of the dream whenever a new narrator appeared.

Michael E Brown @brownstudy