Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Books and Audio Books, not created equally

I belong to two book clubs, one that meets face to face and one that "meets" online. And, true confessions (or, arguably in Katie's case, apparent knowledge), I am behind in my readings for both of them.

That being said, I'm putting some of the blame squarely on the Interlibrary Loan Shoulders of my local library. In fact, I've ILL'd from two different libraries to see which has the quicker turnaround time. I'll let you know which comes in first. It's kinda exciting to see the race! Selfish of me to ask for the same two books from two different library organizations? Yes. Admittedly. But oh well, there you have yet another ugly little characteristic of me: I'm very very impatient sometimes, especially when *I've* procrastinated and must now get it done!

When I worked full time as a librarian (I'm trained as an instruction librarian and worked on College/University campuses before I switched careers and became a Full-time Mom), we had a little phrase used amongst us to help us not get sucked into the great VOID OF PANIC created by procrastinating students. You may have already heard it from someone else. It's still a good mantra (though sadly I must now apply it to my own life): A Lack of Planning on YOUR Part Does Not Constitute An Emergency on MINE.

Ahhhhh, good times.

But I digress. So, book clubs. I love them because you really do get exposed to all sorts of fascinating literature along the way. I have discovered that over time my personal taste in books has firmly gelled in the genres of "light and fluffy" or "happy and funny," and "things with a good ending" with a bonus of "a quick read." In particular, I also really like to read the stuff you can find in the juvenile literature section, because there is honestly some really good quality works found there, without all the "sex" and language (though you still have to be careful with some of the more "contemporary" juvie stuff). Overall, it's refreshing.

But what happens if you get one of your favorite author's books on tape (or cd, as the case is now becoming). Sometimes, as in the works of Harry Potter as narrated by Jim Dale, it is DELICIOUS to listen to. Other times, as in Brandon Mull's series, "Fablehaven" as read by E.B. Stevens, one has to wonder what these people (aka: the people who employed him!) were thinking.

I mean no disrespect if you happen to like him as a narrator, because he does have a few nice voices, but he DRIVES ME NUTS to listen to overall because he doesn't have a great reach and he has the ANNOYING habit of ends his sentences on an up tone instead of a concluding note, where the period would be (as an experiment, please read the last sentence aloud. Did you say, "...would be" with the "be" ending an octave higher? Or "...would be" with the "be" ending lower? If you ended higher, by all means, please purchase E.B. Stevens works because you'll probably enjoy them to no end. And I don't mean to sound so snotty. I'm serious. You'll probably adore them. Ahem. Moving on).

But my biggest bugaboo? Ohhhhhhhh, E.B. Stevens. Why must you make sad events sound as if a chipper news anchor has just announced the death of 400 with a smile on his/her face. It is positively ludicrous to listen to...and of course, he's in the employ of Shadow Mountain books (read: Deseret Books), so he also narrates the Leven Thumps audio series (which I will now not be buying) as well as the wonderful Fablehavens.

It's sad, really, because there is a strange and wonderful enjoyment of having someone read to you...maybe it hearkens back to when we are children and our parents read "Bedtime for Francis" to us over and over again and we love it each and every time. I don't know. But I do know that a perfect stranger reading something to me can be so soothing...or so grating on the nerves as to take any joy and wonder right smack out of the story and make me want to grab the nearest sharp item and impale myself on it. Okay, maybe that's a wee bit of an exaggeration, but it really does suck the life right out of a good story and makes the whole work YUCKY.

Ohhhhh! Here's another good example. For my online book club, we read, "The Book Thief," which is really a beautiful and fascinating book. Definitely worthwhile (albeit a little heavy reading). Unless you get the audio version, which one of the girls did, and the narrator was "grotesque" to listen to. In fact, she actually gave the book a poor review while the rest of us raved about it. And the big difference? Audio with a poor narrator verses her own narrator's voice in her head.

What about you, Gentle Reader? Have you had this experience? Do you have any recommendations for GOOD books with solid narrators? Because I have just given you someone to avoid and trust me, you'll thank me for it later, after you've simply just read the books.


Jennifer Lee said...

I'll just say it again--The Spiderwick Chronicles had a great narrator. The Chronicles of Narnia had a horrid narrator. We're listening to The Thief Lord now and I'm still (three cds in) unsure of how much I like the narrator. My family has all enjoyed Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites and we like the narrator, but I also know people who can't stand the narrator's voice.

Cindy said...

Brendan Fraser narrates the book called the Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke and it is now one of my very favorite stories, mainly because he did such an awesome job. Definitely check it out.

Bad, badddd ILL abuser! I think the ILL police are going to come look for you. :)

Katie said...

Due to my obsession with Doctor Who, I bought some audiobooks from iTunes. Some of the books had different actors as the narrators. The books with David Tennant - aka The Doctor - as the narrator were fabulous. But there were some narrators who were truly horrid - and I can't listen to those again.
FYI - Richard Armitage reads some Robin Hood audiobooks that I found on iTunes. He's pretty good.
And yes, I know you're behind. ;-)

Greg Hatch said...

I have no book club experience, and truth be told (and not "apparent knowledge"), despite being a librarian, I'm not a big "book" person. I love magazines and newspapers. They satisfy that same urge you have of "a quick read." I'm too ADHD to focus longer. I try but rarely finish book anymore. And you know, I can hear the excitement in your voice when you write about your time as a librarian. I believe the phrase goes: "You can take the girl out of the library, but...." You'll be back. Some day. And we'll be all the better for it. Still miss you. (Oh, and I'll concur: Bad ILL abuser. Bad!)

Katie said...

I also have to comment that I LOVE Jim Dale - it is absolutely amazing how he can do so many voices - remember them from book to book - and make them unique. He's awesome.