Wednesday, September 9, 2009


It's possible that I've mentioned in too many posts here the fact that King Dork (a movie?) never made it on to my first list of Amazing Audiobooks. I really enjoyed that audiobook. So, when Frank Portman's Andromeda Klein crossed my path, I moved it to the top of the listening pile. Whew! If you can't cut it, as Booklist says, you might "turn to less demanding fare, like, say, advanced calculus."

Andromeda is a 16-year-old social outcast who is seriously into magic (and not that Harry Potter wand-type of magic). She had a close friend, Daisy, who shared her interest/obsession, but Daisy unexpectedly died while Andromeda was on an enforced vacation with her family. And before she died, Daisy and Andromeda were on the outs, since Andromeda wouldn't tell Daisy about her sort-of (now possibly former) boyfriend, Saint Steve. But, lately, Andromeda thinks that Daisy is trying to communicate with her. She's been having meaningful dreams, her Tarot readings are synching, and there are other signs. Andromeda's just got to figure out what Daisy is trying to tell her.

There's also an amusing (to librarians) subplot where Andromeda -- in her work at a library page at the International House of Bookcakes -- is being forced to weed her beloved, but low-circulating, 133s in order to make room for alternative media. She concocts an elaborate checkout plan to keep these books out of the hands of the so-called Friends of the Library.

There's a lot to like in this novel: Andromeda is an extremely single-minded individual and that gets her into a number of cringeworthy, yet quite funny, situations when she tries to deal with a world that isn't quite so obsessed. There are her clueless parents, the mean girls at her school (who pull a very nasty trick), Daisy's younger brother (who exchanges Daisy's magical belongings for Andromeda's father's ancient porno magazines), and a "nice young man" whose tolerance for Andromeda's oddities is especially charming. Andromeda is hard of hearing -- she calls it her "disorganized collagen" -- which leads to some misheard speech that she wittily turns into regular usage. (The easiest to recall: She mistakes bathroom for vacuum and then uses vacuum to refer to the toilet.) Fortunately, the book ends with a Lexicon, where many of these spoonerisms (and a lot else besides) are explained.

Alas, there are also pages and pages of excrutiating detail devoted to esoterica about Tarot, historical magical practioners, those books in the 133s, the actual meaning of her dreams, visions, etc. And I'm afraid that this is just all too much for the audiobook. It staggers under the weight. Only the most dedicated listener will ever sit still for it. I have this note from my listening: "Problem with this book: Disc 5/Track 4, around 4:00 --What is this list?"

And this is a shame, because I really enjoyed the narrator's performance. Deirdre Lovejoy reads all 14+ hours and she never gives up. She reads with lots of expression and liveliness. She varies the pace, the volume, and infuses sarcasm, humor, grief and ennui into the narration. I really enjoyed listening to her. (And, look, Lovejoy is from one of my favorite TV programs, The Wire.) She only partially voices the characters, and she's got a pretty wobbly Australian accent, but I appreciated her commitment to this book.

As he did in King Dork, Dr. Frank (Portman) provides a musical interlude on the audiobook. The name of the song and its lyrics were pretty much untelligible to me, but it had a good beat! I think you can listen to it here.

So, I didn't like it as much as King Dork (it was nearly as funny, and there's a lot of stuff that is just not particularly interesting to anyone who doesn't seek to practice magic), but I was glad that I read it. Portman never ceases to surprise and doesn't talk down to his readers.

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