Tuesday, March 4

I'm Listening

You already know by now that I love books. I read across genres, having my favorites but not completely distaining any. My favorites are romance (when it's done well) and mysteries. I got hooked on mysteries when I was a kid and ran out of things to read that were suitable for my age. So Mom turned me on to the likes of Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and Rex Stout.

A few years ago I got turned on to books of another sort: audiobooks. Funny to think that audiobook publishing is so big now. Initially they were intended for the visually impaired. Then folks who had long commutes, or just a long drive ahead of them, discovered them. And now, each year, the audio offerings at the local book store keep getting better. Audiobooks have gone mainstream, offering a welcome distraction to anyone who, well, needs a distraction. Need to exercise more? Reward yourself for your discipline by listening to a book while you sweat. That pile of ironing threatening to take over the house? Use it as an excuse to "read" for a while.

And these days you can even download them from the internet. And you aren't limited to listening from your PC, either. Many sites allow you to upload onto your mp3 player, in rare instances onto your iPod, and frequently allow you to burn the audio onto CDs. My county library system has that. Of course you have to pay for the CDs you burn them onto; so, although the service is technically free, it can still end up costing you. I'm actually collecting quite the library of audiobooks.

My favorites to listen to are the old standbys - the English cozy mystery. I have discovered that not all books translate equally well to audio. It helps if there is a lot of dialogue and a fair amount of activity in the plot. And the pacing must be good, otherwise it's much too easy to become distracted while listening. But a good, character driven mystery is perfect. Currrently I am obsessed with listening to all the Ellis Peters Brother Cadfael books that I can get my hands, or my ears, on.

But if the kind of book is important, equally so is the narrator. If the voice is too lyrical, too musical, the words get lost. Too flat and the characters won't come alive in your head. Good pacing and inflection are vital. I was listening to a book not long ago which was fairly enjoyable except for a tendency on the part of the narrator to insert odd pauses. It reminded me of that old grammar joke "what's that on the road, a head?" I've come to the conclusion that good narrating is an artform in itself.

If you haven't given audiobooks a try yet, you should. Doesn't everyone have that one dreaded task looming over them, that one that they keep putting off until it, like the ironing, keeps getting larger and more daunting? Go ahead, check it out ... possibly from your local library.

3 comments:

Merry said...

I agree, the voice of the narrator can make or break a novel.

You were too polite to mention specifics, but I'm tired and therefore cannot remember where I put my tactful hat. I love reading Nero Wolfe, but Michael Pritchard, the narrator, so turned me off that I cannot listen to any audio versions. (Which at least has saved me some $$.)

And it annoys me to hear overtly American voices reading British stories. (Haven't run across the opposite, but doubtless that would be annoying too.) The classic example that I can think of is the American version of the LOTR dramatization. The BBC did a version that kicked the American version's ass into a tiny little tin can. (A very kind reviewer on Amazon said of the American version, "... well, you could tell they had a lot of enthusiasm. And not much money."

Who do you like as a narrator? I adore Hugh Fraser for Agatha Christie, or Derek Jacobi for Josephine Tey. Can't think of any other /love it/ narrators at the moment, so any advice would be gratefully accepted.

qzpsfs - huh? me? no, I wasn't snoring. Might have been Lori.

McB said...

Oh, Pritchard! Yes I agree with you $100. I was so tickled that the Nero Wolfe books were available I immediately downloaded one without listening to the sample first. Wow. Like listening to your least favorite history teacher drone on about famous dates (historic, not romantic, which might have been a good bit more interesting ... or not)

Absolute favorite narrator so far is Joanna Ward's reading of the Cadfael series. I agree that Hugh Fraser nails the Christie books, even getting Poirot and the inspector dead on. You'd never know you weren't listening to a full cast recording. Worst reading, and the one I was referring to, was Vanessa Benjamin.

Lord of the rings audio books said...

Audio books are here to stay . I am in love with them . Not only its interesting to hear voices , you can enjoy them while moving. I hear audio books all the time in my car . One of my friend is so crazy about audio books . He takes long routes to get back to his home . You can find some cheaper audio book library online .