Thursday, August 5, 2010

So then what happened?

Lyra's Oxford was on the shelf at my neighborhood library, so I snapped it up for a quick listen as desired after completing Philip Pullman's epic. I read the book six years ago and remembered it mostly for its ephemera (a map, a postcard, what else?) so I wondered how it would be as an audiobook. I needn't have worried. It's in the capable hands of the author and many of the voice actors who performed His Dark Materials.

In listening, the story seemed pretty slight, which is interesting because when I went back to find my notes on reading it, I had found it suspenseful. Lyra and Pan rescue a witch's daemon from a flock of angry starlings and help it to find a reclusive alchemist. This turns out to be a bit of an error on Lyra's part, but I think the story -- along with the other novella -- is meant to be a moment in Lyra's post-dust adventures. Which I wish Mr. Pullman would work a teensy bit faster on instead of twitting Christian fundamentalists with his latest novel. (OK, I say that knowing nothing about that book.)

Lyra's Oxford doesn't have the cast of thousands of its predecessors, but the small group of readers live up to the standard they created while performing the trilogy, and I was struck again at how good a narrator Pullman is. His calm command of the story is really amazing. He maintains a appropriate neutrality, but doesn't hesitate to read emotionally when the story calls for it. I'd like to hear him read something else, but the truth of the matter is that I have no interest in the aforementioned novel.

I'm torn: I frequently opine that audiobooks help me (and others) to reach beyond our literary comfort levels, so maybe I'm going to have to practice what I preach. On the other hand: There's too much in the To-Be-Listened-To pile already. Fortunately, the debate's moot at this point: It's not available to me in either CD or downloadable form.

Lyra's Oxford by Philip Pullman
Read by the author and a full cast
Listening Library, 2003. 0:48 (unabridged)

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