Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Focus


0805 brown autumn leaves
Originally uploaded by rooruu
Today was one of those days when you aim to focus, while things come at you from all angles. Not unmanageably so, but constant. Didn't achieve all I wanted to, but some of it happened, and more will tomorrow.

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.

5 comments:

Taphophile said...

Completely agree that a good reader and a good book make good audio. Sometimes a well presented audio book helps me enjoy a book that otherwise I couldn't get into, such as Roddy Doyle's Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha.

My public library has a good audio book collection and we can even download to MP3 players straight from the catalogue.

The Shopping Sherpa said...

Have you considered borrowing them from your local library? Much cheaper...

:-)

rooruu said...

Ah, such good suggestions, with such reasonable assumptions about the modern library - the public library service must be buckets better in Canberra.

For starters, opening hours. Hello, some of us work. You know how the library branches close at 5.30pm or earlier? When I was a kid, we often went to the local library in the early evening.

Second: it's been a loooong time since the only audience for audio books (or as they're still quaintly referred to, "talking books" ) is people with visual impairment. So why are so many of the titles you do hold quarantined to this group only? And why does your catalogue make searching/identifying audio titles so difficult?

Third, wow, downloading to mp3? Great idea. Unheard of.

Fourth: I'd like to think that the books I'd enjoy reading are on the shelves, but waiting months isn't my kinda fun. If they have them.

Fifth, there is a slightly more go-ahead library with slightly longer opening hours in a neighbouring council area, but many of the same problems as outlined; and lovely fees like $1.50 if the book you want is at another branch and you want to collect it at the nearer branch (still within the same council's library group). Oh, and an annual fee because I don't qualify for free membership.

And yet, if you ask me, I'm very supportive of public libraries - and I am part of the library profession myself. In practical terms, the ones around here don't work for me. So I don't bother.

I will note re the audiobooks that Art of Mending, for instance, was one of those I bought at a cheap price - probably not a lot more than the petrol to get to one of the libraries, the way petrol prices are going. I'd not have bought it at full price. Likewise I rarely buy the $30 books, either.

This is a bit of a rant, sorry 'bout that. But if, for instance, mp3 download of audiobooks was available at the local library, maybe I would bother, cram it into Saturday morning along with the rest of the long list of stuff to do (I cannot visit any of these libraries at lunch from work, due to distance and other factors).

Which is not to say I didn't appreciate your comments. They showed up what might be possible or good ...if...if...

Isabelle said...

It's so interesting, isn't it - what makes one sometimes enjoy a book even if one doesn't actually like the characters? All very indefinable, but down to the way it's written, I suppose, or the interesting plot.

paula said...

My library is fantastic - and as my partner isn't a reader as such, he is totally enjoying the worlds opening up to him as he listens while he works.

Sign up on your late night - most libraries do interloans and will email you automatically when your choice arrives.

Best,
Paula