Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Ended the day with a great conversation with an independent bookseller. Ranged over lots of things, but one of the many things we agreed on was that, with a good book, you go on an engrossing journey that you can't experience any other way. Doesn't have to be the finest literature - we all have individual lists of page-turners, words that take you into worlds. Love that about books.
It's so good when you can share them, and find someone else getting the same delight. I've recently lent a bunch of Georgette Heyers to a friend who'd never read any, and she enjoyed them immensely, disappeared into them, set other things aside so she could stay in, travel in the world of each one. Love that about books.
On reflection, I'm fortunate to have had "The Time Traveler's Wife" as the first audiobook I'd listened to in a long time. And unabridged (William Hope and Laurel Lefkow, utterly brilliant readers). That rendering was of such quality and depth. It slowed me down to notice what I hadn't noticed before, it took me through my favourite sections with unalloyed delight. As I've said before, I've listened to it three times. It also sent me back to the printed book.
From the bunch I posted a couple of weeks ago, I'm now partway through "The Art of Mending", and believe that it's not just the reader's voice that isn't gelling for me, it's probably that the book isn't connecting either. I don't believe it, I'm not able to suspend disbelief. The central character is a 'quilt artist', but in a way that I've not known anyone to be so - switching between working with commissions involving loved clothing to other ones involving new fabric. Perhaps there are people doing this in the US, but it seemed unfocused to me, a tad implausible - the quilt artists with whom I'm familiar tend to have honed their attention to a specific body of work, rather than being jills-of-all-fabric. Somehow this woman was a commercial commission quilter, maybe, but not a quilt artist. Or not an art quilter, if that's a better way to put it.
It wasn't just that, though. I wasn't enjoying spending time with these people. I didn't care what happened to them - they were boring and self-involved and smug and tedious (whereas you can have self-involved characters that you dislike intensely, but want to keep reading about). They stayed as words, they didn't become real. The book hasn't held me - I've only experienced it as audio, I don't own a print copy (slight disadvantage, I can't just flip to the end and read the last couple of pages!) and I don't think I'd be interested to. It's got about four stars on amazon.com, so there are plenty of folks who disagree with me.
So now I've started on the unabridged audiobook of "Outlander "("Cross Stitch" was its publication title here and in the UK) by Diana Gabaldon. It's a book I've read and shared and read again. And again. And while the reader somehow isn't my favourite (I don't know enough to know, but it seems like her Scottish accents are a bit dodgy from time to time), it's a serviceable version and is again bringing the book a new dimension and sending me back to the printed book.
To focus my thoughts so far: a good audiobook can enhance the original print book; but I'm not sure that a decent one can do anything if the original words don't have what it takes to draw you in. (As was true with "The Last of the Mohicans" audiobook, despite the skill of William Hope). It's unreasonable to expect every book to be a winner , but I don't want to spend money on books that aren't, or at least not often. That was what I talked of with the bookseller, too. Nearly $30 is a lot to spend on a book you end up disliking or feeling indifferent about.
Tomorrow is another day. And will include books.