Friday, November 7, 2008

No pain, no gain

Things have gotten somewhat crazy at work and I'm a little behind with blogging. (I don't think I'm behind listening ... I'm feeling like I can get my assignments done between now and the end of the month.) I may give the next two books short shrift here. Finished a week ago: Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron. When I first heard about this book about a year ago, I thought, gee, I hope that comes out in audio. I used chair privileges to snag it for myself and popped it right into the mp3/CD player (I finally got a CD player/radio for the bathroom -- a whole lot less bulky than the cassette-playing boom box that was in there before -- the sound is a little tinny, though, and I can't run the fan and take a shower and hear.).

I wanted to listen to it because the young character's voice seemed to be one suited for audio: Smart, funny, thoughtful. A good narrator will bring it home. New Yorker James Sveck is about to head off to Brown, but he doesn't really want to go. He's thinking he'd rather spend the money his parents will spend on college on a big, old house somewhere in the Midwest. He's kind of a loner -- doesn't really like being with his peers, or with anyone at all -- and he seems to be deeply depressed. The only people he truly admires are his grandmother and the gay man who runs his mother's vanity-project art gallery. His divorced parents insist that he see a counselor after he goes AWOL from a special program for high school seniors in Washington, DC … the American Classroom. He spars with his shrink over the meaning of words, the impact of his actions, and the effect of being in school next door to the WTC the day the towers fell. James' love of language makes this book very engaging -- you want to listen to every word because you know that the author has chosen them so carefully. He's also -- despite the depression -- an interesting person.

But the audiobook was a disappointment. Lincoln Hoppe read it. Now, I loved his reading of King Dork two years ago, but now I'm beginning to wonder if I was just a less critical listener in 2006. I thought he would be just terrific as James. He read James' narrative in a very slow, deliberative fashion; a choice he made (I hope) to demonstrate James' depression and apathy. Unfortunately, this choice makes the book rather dull to listen to. Hoppe definitely perks up his narration as James opens up to his shrink and begins to understand or acknowledge the reasons he's making the choices he is (James would scorn that particular sentence as psychological mumbo-jumbo).

Hoppe is pretty good at creating vocal portraits, and he had fun with two women in the story: James' shrink, Dr. Adler and a desperately enthusiastic Indiana real estate agent (who probably didn't vote for Obama [yahoo!]).

He seemed to reading with an overly dry mouth as well, as I heard a significant amount of clicking and mouth moistening. All in all, it just didn't amount to an amazing audiobook for me.

No comments: