alisa alering

Writer of fantasy and other fictions


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Friday Rant

The Dog: She’s tired of this stuff, too.

This was too long for Facebook, so I guess it’s time for a bonus post.

Be warned: ranting ahead. Ranty rant rant.

I like to listen to audiobooks when I go for a walk in the afternoon. It’s been a busy month, what with all 26,000 of those NaNoWriMo words I’ve been pounding out. So yesterday when it was time to choose a new book, I decided I’d have a mystery/thriller. An intellectual Scandinavian one. Not too vapid, but with atmosphere and plenty of plot.

I chose Jo Nesbo’s, ‘The Leopard.’ I got the audiobook a while ago, but I didn’t remember the description in any detail. I just remembered it was supposed to be good.

I got out on the street with the dog and it started out with some nameless woman being victimized by some nameless ‘he’. And, you know, maybe she gets all empowered by the end. And maybe it passes the Bechdel test and a kick-ass female heroine appears and saves the day and she and the erstwhile victim go on to be smart and funny and talk about things that aren’t men. But you know what?

I don’t care. Because, I just don’t want to listen to this. I don’t want to go along with some poor woman’s mutilation and humiliation one more time. I don’t want to be horrified, or titillated through horror, or whatever you want to call it. I’m tired of that whole trope. Weary, really. So I crossed the road, I turned it off, and listened to music for the rest of my walk.

Today I’m going to listen to “Broken Kingdoms” by Nora Jemisin instead.

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Audiobooks, part 2 (narrators)

I’ve heard it said on librarian discussion groups (yes, it’s true, your librarian does talk about you, but only in the nicest way) that many patrons make their audiobook choices based solely on the narrator.

Before I listened to a lot of audiobooks, I thought this was dumb. Sure, a wretched reader could screw up a great story, but I didn’t realize that reading styles would cause me to avoid whole genres of fiction.

I like a good fast-paced, plot-dependent, snappy-banter, escapist/mystery/thriller-type thing as much as the next person. I thought this would be ideal for whiling away the meters on my imaginary river. So wrong.

Mysteries set in the U.S. and anything “manly” are always read (by a variety of narrator-persons) in this really weird style, where the words are clipped off short and there’s nospacebetweenthem. (Firestorm, Tortilla Curtain, Elmore Leonard)

U.S. Southern women narrators also drive me up the wall. So slow, so honey, and so teeth-grindingly fake.  (Secret Life of Bees, Light in August)

It turns out that what I really like is a British narrator. No, it’s not that I’m prejudiced in favor of a beguiling accent — I get enough of that at home, and it’s pretty much the sound of normal for me. I think there’s just an overall higher quality of voice talent in the UK, whether it’s because over there audiobooks get more respect, because of their awesome tradition of radio plays, or because they have so many top-notch actors. Whatever it is, I’ve listened to a lot of titles because I knew I could count on the narration. (Lord Jim, Moon & Sixpence, Ian McEwan).

Not that actor = fantastic narrator. Just check out Slate’s article, “Read Me a Story, Brad Pitt. When audiobook casting goes terribly  wrong.”

Sometimes the best narrators are authors. I really liked:

  • Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, read by Alexandra Fuller
  • Black Swan Green, read by David Mitchell

Oh, right. They’re not American. Well, there you have it.


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Audiobooks, part 1 (criteria)

I use audiobooks to help me get through the hateful hour that is exercise, and I have specific criteria for what kinds of books I’m allowed to listen to:

  • Must not be boring
  • Must not be too good
  • Must not be funny
  • Must not be action thing with male narrator

Boring is self-explanatory–Audiobooks are supposed to take my mind off the suffering of my muscular & circulatory systems and boring is not much help.

But too good? Well, yes. I like stories and all that, but what I like best is reading. I read much faster than I can listen. I can see the arrangement of the words on the page-and I can see more than one at a time. Listening is more linear than reading, and it is uni-directional: this word followed by that word followed by that one. If I want to have a personal experience with a word or a phrase or an image while I’m listening, sure I can go off and think about that for a while, but then I’ve missed the next two paragraphs. If a book is really good, I don’t want to waste it on listening.

Too funny? If I laugh, I get weak, and fall off the rowing machine.

Narrators? That’s the next post.