Friday, April 25, 2008

the resurrection of the author

I’m listening to The Lovely Bones on CD right now (I know, sooo 2003, but whatever—books are timeless). Of the handful of books I’ve listened to during my purgatorious commute, this is the first that’s been read by the author rather than an actor.

I liked Judy Kaye’s interpretation of Sue Grafton (her voice was somehow both hardboiled and melodic), but I found Suzanne Toren’s reading of Jane Smiley’s Ten Days in the Hills far too actress-y. Maybe that quality was appropriate to the work, which was all about movie industry types lounging about in the Palisades, but it was way too easy to picture Toren backstage in furs, chanting, “Red leather, yellow leather.”

Alice Sebold is a bit of an anti-actress. As the author, she knows exactly how each word is supposed to be pronounced and which part of each sentence should be emphasized. This is appealing to my own inner control-freak author (although it can also be fun to hear how actors envision your characters). But she has a calm, flat, almost nerdy voice that makes me feel like I’m being read a bedtime story.

Oddly, this is the perfect voice to narrate a story about a murdered girl, a story that is both eerie and, well, lovely. Sebold’s voice also provides a counterbalance to prose that, while finely crafted, occasionally border on florid. I’m not 100 percent sure that I would love seeing all those pristine descriptions of snow and fields and flowers, all that hyper-eloquent dialogue, on the page. But I love hearing it.

The future of the printed word looks iffy at times, yet I’ve heard many people complain that they don’t like going to readings because that’s not how the author intended people to absorb his or her words (and sometimes I agree). So it’s nice to discover a perfect blend of new-ish technology and old-fashioned storytelling that can help a girl survive the 110 freeway.


Prince Gomolvilas said...

I'm all for audio books.... No reading required! Yay!

Laura and the family said...

Oh, I wish I could use audio books while I am being stuck in a traffic or even too many rubber necks!

Despite of my deafness, I enjoy analyzing others' looks, personality, and emotions during the rush hour. That makes me expert reading others without saying (winks.)

Laura and the family said...

P.S. Don't forget that also includes lip reading other people's conversation (LOL)

CC said...

P: It's true--it's like reading without the reading.

L: I'll remember that next time I'm gossiping on my cell on the freeway.

Cheryl said...

Aaargh. Once again, that was Cheryl at C.C.'s computer. If mine didn't take like four hours to boot up I wouldn't keep doing this....