Tuesday, October 2, 2007

But did you like the movie version?

When an old (ish) book becomes a movie, interest in the title perks up again, and things like audio versions appear. (Speaking of old books and new movies, is anyone else really afraid of The Dark is Rising? Susan Cooper is.) Thus it is with The Freedom Writers Diary. An audio version appeared in one of my deliveries, one of my colleagues listened to it and nominated it, and I started listening to it when I lost the Fanboy and Goth Girl disks last summer, but abandoned it for Harry Potter about a week later. Nothing, and I mean nothing, of the story stayed with me in the interim. When I was flailing about for books on cassette to listen to, I located this title on World Cat and placed an Interlibrary Loan. Amazingly (considering the increased interest in the book -- 56 holds at my library [how many of those people think they've placed a hold on the movie?]), the book on tape arrived in my hot little hand last week. Because I really didn't want to listen to this, I decided to power through it by listening to it in both formats. This strategy worked because I finished this in less than a week -- hooray!

I think a book like this has a lot of appeal for teens, so I'm glad the publisher decided to send it to us (so many audiobook publishers don't send us any adult titles), but this just did not work for me in audio. There are three narrators: one reads the entries of the teacher, Erin Gruwell (there's one for each of eight semesters); and the other two read the male and female students' entries. The diary entries are anonymous, and are presented chronologically. Thus, you hear a series of entries about the same events. And if I understand the format of the book, there is one entry for each of 150 students (but I don't think this was the case, because occasionally a couple of the entries sounded like someone you had heard from before). As a result of this approach, all of the girls sound the same, as do all of the boys. The individuality of the students is completely lost, and ultimately all you are listening to is a series of brief ruminations on a particular event they all experienced -- interspersed with more personal stories of loss, triumph, or something in between. It's repetitive, and -- since you're hearing the same reader -- pretty much indistinguishable. All the power of the individual experiences is lost.

I also had some serious objection to the male reader, whose perfect pronunciation and rounded even tones certainly didn't make any of the male characters sound like they came from the 'hood of Long Beach, California. I felt like I was listening to some entitled Princetonion with three last names read. On the other hand, the female students came alive with some character and personality. But the reader interpreting Erin Gruwell simply sounded bored.

How was the movie, anyway?

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