I’ve taken to listening to audiobooks on my iPod during my commute, some from the library, some from Audible.com. My prior audiobook experience had been limited to solo trips to Massachusetts, but these are turning out to be a good way to decompress and keep me awake.
So far on this new spate of listening, I’ve only listened to two things that I hadn’t read before. I am a die-hard re-reader, as you will have noticed, and actually I’m finding listening to books to be a good way of re-experiencing them, because I tend to skim when I get really involved in what-happens-next. (I’m planning to try The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (the unabridged Rob Inglis versions) after the turn of the year; I think it might be an interesting way of getting back to the text.) On my daily commute, I find that new stuff is almost too involving—I’ve yet to circle the block so I can listen to the end of the chapter, but I’ve been tempted; also, if I’m distracted for a moment by traffic, it’s slightly inconvenient to skip back and listen again.
On the other hand, I sometimes feel guilty about spending so much time on familiar works. A sort of compromise is to listen to things that I’ve read before but don’t remember well. Douglas Adams’ first four Hitchhiker books turned out to be a good example of this: I had no recollection of the third, Life, the Universe, and Everything. None whatsoever. Which is somewhat odd, since it’s the most like an actual book of the first four, with a plot and pace and a reasonably coherent story. (The first in particular is lumps of exposition with a beginning and a (very abrupt) end; it doesn’t have so much middle, as I’d seen remarked about the adaptations for the forthcoming movie. But when it’s such cool exposition, you can get away with it. The fifth is not a book; it’s a giant slap in the face of the reader, an abomination whose very existence pains me. ) I’d remembered Life as the least good of the first four, and I’m still not sure what I think of it, but I think now I’ll remember what it’s about.
(I’m weird and like the fourth the best, always have, probably because I’m a sap and slightly uncomfortable with the misanthropy in the others, particularly the second. I really don’t want to hear why you dislike it, if you do, because I want to keep it as my favorite.)
Adams, by the way, is very bad at transitions, and this flaw is really pointed up by the audio format. The worst is one transition in Life, because it simply isn’t there; I thought maybe I’d spaced out, or the audio file was glitchy, but no, the book has the same lack.
These are read by Adams, who does a fabulous job of it. There are a few minor infelicities: in Restaurant at the End of the Universe, his voices for the robot characters are run through some kind of special effect filter, which makes the lovely confrontation between Marvin and the war robot unfortunately hard to follow; the overall sound quality isn’t quite as sharp as more recently recorded audiobooks; and occasionally they seem to speed up a bit, as if to fit on a certain number of tapes. But overall I liked these a lot, and I’m quite looking forward to getting the Dirk Gently books, which I also don’t remember at all (these are all available from Audible).
[split into multiple posts for import into MT; hit “next”]