Friday, August 1, 2008

Don't tell mama

I generally like novels in free verse. They're an easy sell when kids have to read a book of "more than 100 pages" or some such malarkey -- since they often meet the page limit but read fast. You feel like you've read a book, when you've really read a novella. Give yourself the credit anyway. I think it's a given that poetry sounds better when read aloud, so how pleasant it was to see this (relatively) old (2001) title in audio. At just two hours, it listens fast -- not a bad thing in the face of the imminent arrival of Breaking Dawn (likely to run about 20 hours ... arghh!)

In What My Mother Doesn't Know, Sonya Sones gives poetic voice to Sophie, almost 15 years old and mostly boy crazy -- with a side interest in art. In the course of the short novel, she falls for three guys; but its the third one -- known pejoratively as Murph by everyone in her high school -- who is her true soul mate, if she can get up the gumption to actually date him. Sophie's funny and chatty, self-aware and self-absorbed. The audiobook's narrator is Kate Reinders, who captures Sophie's personality in a cheerful breezy delivery that sounds very authentic. She's spot on with Sophie's "eewww!" when she discovers that the guy she's been chatting up online gets his pleasures by ... well, self-pleasuring, as well as with Sophie's loss and confusion at her parents' disintegrating relationship.

Some quibbles: Instead of reading each poem's (chapter) title and pausing before delivering the verse, Reinders barrels through her reading. And since some of the poem titles could be a line within the poem, it's often difficult to know when one poem ends and the next one begins. Occasionally it seemed like she was under instructions to get the book in under two hours.

Which segues me to quibble number two. I've gone on (and sometimes on) here about Brilliance Audio and their 99 tracks (I've noticed that Full Cast Audio has started producing CDs with lots of tracks as well). With the recent New York Times article discussing the death of the cassette, I must ask again why the tracks are so short and there are so many. "But for audio books," the article said, "the cassette is an oddly elegant [italics mine] medium: you can eject it from your car, carry it home and stick it in a boombox, and it will pick up in the same place, an analog feat beyond the ability of the CD."

When a CD switches players, you have to forward it to whatever track you finished on ... perhaps listening to a part of it again. OK, I can live with that. With Brilliance CDs, you have to click, click, click through 50, 60, 70, 80 tracks to get to your place again. Neither my finger, nor my CD players, can go fast enough to make this anything but an annoyance. On top of this, the tracks don't break in logical places: I spent some time watching the readout on the player and, more than once, one poem finished and another one began, and the track break didn't occur until halfway through.

But the sad truth is, I was chicken. I had an opportunity to ask about this and I didn't. I didn't wish to be impolite.

1 comment:

Tom Evans said...

I can't say for certain, but I suspect one of the reasons Brilliance Audio has so many subchapters on it's CDs is due to the use of IPods and the like. Since each audio chapter shows up as on a contents, it allows you to more easily get to the secton you were on. For those listening on CDs, however, I can WELL imagine it would be annoying.