Saturday, July 7, 2012

Quick Thought on Audio Books.

Some people consider themselves having actually read a book if they listened to its unabridged audio adaptation. I don't, but I can see their point as a valid one even I don't think it qualifies as actually reading.

Much like what Roger Ebert said when digital film was first on the rise, I'm not sure the brain processes the information the same way. In fact, I don't believe it does. Still, that doesn't mean I don't enjoy the occasional audio book. I just tend to listen to the ones I've already read.

That brings me to quality. Too often the chosen reader is quite terrible. I remember back when my mom was still alive and experiencing difficulty holding books due to her advanced Diabetic Neuropathy. I bought her scores of audio Star Trek adventures, most of them abridged and read by some cast member or another. They were excellently done, but they were the exception.

Disqualifying dramatized audio books that have full casts in them, which my friend and colleague P.S. Ramsey absolutely despises and I happen to adore, a straight read-through of a novel is a precarious thing, especially when the reader is selected to read a famous, well-loved work. I submit the ridiculously awful selection of Ethan Hawke to read Vonnegut's Slaughter-House Five.

Don't get me wrong; I respect the hell out of Ethan Hawke. I like his politics, his acting and, while I've never had occasion to read it, I hear his writing is also quite good. But his reading of Vonnegut's seminal masterpiece is painfully dreadful.

Maybe it's me, but Vonnegut's work tends to havea certain up, clipped tonality to it, does it not? His sparse prose and blunt phrasing lend themselves to an almost gleeful celebration of the mundane and inhumane. Yet Hawke reads it as if he's auditoning for the narration of "Apocalypse Now." He sounds tired, withdrawn, sleepy, even hungover.

Naturally, if I'd never read the novel I'd have no idea what cadence to expect, and for those weirdoes who still haven't read Slaughter-House Five, I suppose that makes his reading just fine and dandy.

For a fan of the book, however, the entire appeal of the narrative is wrecked beyond all recognition. There are few really good readers of audio books in the business. Most of Stephen King's books are exceptionally well-read, including those read the by the author himself.

"Exceptionally" is the operative word, however.

I've been told I'll be reading my own "Dreamers at Infinity's Core" someday in the near future for downloadable audio. I will, of course, read it the way it's supposed to sound and nail ever nuance and stand-out moment.

Be kind~

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