dorinda: Cary Grant, in "Bringing Up Baby," clutches his head beneath the letters "OMG WTF". (WTF_CaryGrant)
posted by [personal profile] dorinda at 01:35pm on 22/05/2017 under ,
Hoh man. Serious insomnia last night, my standard sleep hygiene routines fell down around my ears, so I'm at work on about 3 hours sleep. Kind of floating around behind my face like a gurbly balloon.

On the bright side, nice things going on at work, the powers that be actually ponying up money for something we really really needed, yay. But will I be glad to get home and eat a cracker and go to bed before sunset.

My current library audiobook is really fretting me. It's Donna Tartt's The Secret History, and I had heard about it eeeverywhere. Highly spoken of. And a good long book, so I was excited to jump in.

But now I'm just about halfway through, and am considering just stopping and returning the dang thing. It's a constant low-level irritation.

A major reason, unfortunately, is the reading. It's read by Donna Tartt herself, and there are few writers who I think should be audiobook readers. No shame, it's just...audiobook narration is a specific and underestimated skillset, and I vastly prefer to hear a professional do it. Just because you wrote the book doesn't mean you'll be good at reading it aloud.

She has a very low vocal energy, dipping into long croaky vocal fry a lot at the ends of sentences, because she doesn't know how to speak softly but also firmly/powerfully at the same time. A professional knows how to support their voice even when they're speaking right up against a microphone. For the same reasons, her voice scarcely changes timbre, staying in a repetitive, cyclical, muttery range, again because she doesn't have the skill at speaking quietly, on a mike, yet varying in tone and timbre and energy.

And to cap all that off, for some godforsaken reason she gives the character Bunny a distinctive "voice", high and very nasal and singsong, like she's doing some kind of puppet show. AUGH! No one else gets something like that. A professional audiobook reader--a good one, anyway--doesn't "do voices" like that. But here I have to listen to Bunny nasally-squeaking away right and left.

So it just rasps on my ears. It's likely that had I read the book in print, it wouldn't have felt like such a hard, irritating row to hoe--her reading has heaped a lot of difficulty onto the text that has taken extra work for me to disregard.

However--I can't guarantee I would like it, even if it had a good reader. Not just because all the characters are tedious to spend time with in a lit'ry-fiction/anachronistic/wealthy-spoiled-boring way, though that's sure the case. Nor that she seems to have given them banana levels of smoking habits mainly so she has actions to describe to break up big long speeches. Characters are forever lighting another cigarette or pouring another whisky (they all smoke and drink like thirty year olds in 1958, though they're supposed to be 20 year olds in the 1980s...I mean, I think even snotty old-rich Vermont college kids in the 80s drank dumb college booze like everyone else.).

That's kind of petty, I know. Worse I think is what feels to me like a complete overdetermination of Bunny Corcoran. He is suuuuch a complete bad guy, from top to toe, in almost a moustache-twirling way. Aggressively homophobic and anti-Semitic, a selfish ungrateful leech with everyone else's money, a bully, a huge snob, a terrible scholar, a misogynist, a blackmailer, a liar, one of those kidding-on-the-square tormentors who will interrogate and humiliate the milquetoast social-climbing narrator about all his pretenses while Bunny does a lot of the same thing (e.g. pretending he has a ton of money when his parents actually don't give him any).

Bunny has no redeeming features, which makes me feel like he's like that mainly so there's no need to feel bad at all about what happens to him. (I mean, it happens at the start of the book, and is just about to happen in more detail in the middle of the book, and all I can think is YES GOD PLEASE FINALLY.) But now that it's really about to happen, it feels like the book is losing the courage of its convictions, because all of a sudden the narrator starts reminiscing about how he "loved" Bunny, how he remembered their close friendship and all their good times and how they really had been good friends and stuff. But it's all telling, no showing--all we've been shown through the first half of the book is every terrible thing Bunny has done, which are many.

So it's impossible to believe that this whole group keeps on hanging around with him (even before the blackmail stuff) and also kind of cheap and easy to suddenly be told "oh but Richard reaaallly loved him you guys, this whole turning against Bunny thing is difficult". I mean practically the first experience Richard has with Bunny is that enormous lunch, where Bunny is loudly homophobic at the waiter and jacks up the bill specifically knowing he has no money and intends to dump it on Richard. He keeps on doing shit like that, and getting worse every time we have to spend time with him. So where's this good-old-beloved-Bunny coming from? You can't show me nothing but a constant pile of shit and then later suddenly insist that it used to smell like violets, aw so sad that it's now shit.



Granted, I'm only halfway through--maybe the second half of the book addresses this weird approach it seems to have committed to. But because the listening experience is not very pleasant, I'm not sure if I can stick it out.

Anyone who's read it, I'd be more than happy to hear your advice!

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