dorinda: Cary Grant, in "Bringing Up Baby," clutches his head beneath the letters "OMG WTF". (WTF_CaryGrant)
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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!
There are 21 comments on this entry. (Reply.)
msmoat: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] msmoat at 06:38pm on 22/05/2017
I have not read it, so I cannot help you. But...good lord! Put it down! Walk away! Life is far too short!
dorinda: The Persuaders: Brett gently holds Danny's chin. (Persuaders_chintouch)
posted by [personal profile] dorinda at 08:02pm on 22/05/2017
Heh heh're in the position of the doctor in the old joke: "Doc, it hurts when I do this." "THEN DON'T DO IT." *g*

That's one of the great things about library borrowing--especially this kind, where I don't even have to physically go to the library building in order to browse and check out mp3 audiobooks. No worries about money, I can just return the thing and try another thing!
le_russe_satan: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] le_russe_satan at 06:49pm on 22/05/2017
Drop it and run, have read it, left a super bad taste in my mouth.
dorinda: Hands reach for two identical glasses, which are labeled "half empty" and "half full". (halfemptyhalffull)
posted by [personal profile] dorinda at 08:03pm on 22/05/2017
That's good to know, thank you! I feel this is very likely to happen. As much as I'm kind of tempted to stick around just until Thing finally happens to Bunny, so then I can go, "Excellent, goodbye" and hit the "RETURN TO LIBRARY" button.
cesperanza: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] cesperanza at 03:15am on 23/05/2017
My opinion is that Secret History was catnip for people who haven't read fanfic and don't know that they can HAVE IT ALL. lol. You know? It's id-ficcy enough that it inflames some people's desires IMO, but having read it after discovering fanfic, my bar is higher!
dorinda: Vintage orange crate label, "Dorinda" brand (Dorinda_label)
posted by [personal profile] dorinda at 01:30pm on 23/05/2017
Oh god, you're right! I hadn't thought of it that way, but it really fits. So iddy and OTT (especially the beautiful blond brother/sister incestuous twins)! And really, I enjoy idfic as much as the next person, but the idfic I like has the intense tropes connected to characters I actually have an emotional attachment to. These characters, not so much.

I read somewhere that Bunny's conversational bullying comes from the personal behavior of Bret Easton Ellis, whom Donna Tartt met at the college she modeled the book's college on. No wonder the narrator insists he's So Wonderful despite only ever doing loudly douchebag things. So for her, the book's RPF--a college AU, with her college, her friends, her psyche taking a wild trip through things she's already attached to. It gives it that nascently-fannish aura--but like you, I've had the real thing, I need no substitutions. :D
thevetia: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] thevetia at 06:56pm on 23/05/2017
Read it, hated it. Can't figure out why I finished it, since I usually have no patience with books that irritate me on every page. For all the touting of it being all 'tru-life college kids! You will thrill to their goings-on!" I found everybody in it to be unbelievable. Yes, the constant smoking WTF. I think I was suckered in by Tartt's hinting of those arcane secret shenanigans that I vainly hoped were going to give a purpose to the plot and characters. Maybe I missed it.

I took against it from the start for a trivial, though possibly telling, reason on page 1 or 2. IIRC, POV character is from California and Tartt tries to paint a picture of the horrid ennui of Californian suburban life: father spending his time riding around on his riding mower. Riding mower!?? This unprivileged middle-class kid lives in a suburb where the lots are big enough to accommodate a riding mower? And the grass grows? And the water????

Clearly, she had never been to California.

dorinda: A basset hound puppy with its long ears flapping sideways. (puppy_ears)
posted by [personal profile] dorinda at 01:45am on 24/05/2017
(Sorry in advance if this posts more than once! I've been trying to post this reply all evening, but the page keeps timing out. >:-[ )

I found everybody in it to be unbelievable.

Agreed! Absolutely everybody. The clique at the center is a weird fetishistic portrait of impeccable imaginary top-drawer youths from the 1950s (or almost like the 1920s/30s even, as if they're Americanized versions of Oxbridge students out of British lore), the rest of the college kids are brutes or sluts, the working class townies are hayseed dullards. Whoof.

Yes, the constant smoking WTF.

I swear, I was listening to this scene where there were no time elisions--it was all dialogue, mostly Henry monologuing--and she had Henry light a cigarette like three times in what was probably at most three or four minutes. COME UP WITH SOME OTHER ACTION TO SPLIT UP YOUR DIALOGUE FOR GOD'S SAKE.

IIRC, POV character is from California and Tartt tries to paint a picture of the horrid ennui of Californian suburban life: father spending his time riding around on his riding mower. Riding mower!??

Oh my god! I had forgotten about that! See, I don't think that's trivial at all--it feels par for the course, a book of bodged-together stereotype, nothing grounded either in real fact or true emotion. You're right, the book goes on about his childhood with the cheap clothes and bad haircuts and his father running a gas station, and his mother wears pantsuits from an outlet store, o the horror--and in a photograph we see his father's riding mower. Aaaahahahahahaha yes.

I'm gonna spoil myself for the end and find another book--if it were in print I could skim it, but the unfortunate thing about audiobooks is that you're stuck with it in real time.
przed: (books)
posted by [personal profile] przed at 03:46am on 24/05/2017
Man, I have this in my to read list. Based on everyone else's comments, I suspect I'm going to find it as annoying as you are. ::sigh::
dorinda: Hands reach for two identical glasses, which are labeled "half empty" and "half full". (halfemptyhalffull)
posted by [personal profile] dorinda at 01:36pm on 24/05/2017
I'm sorry to rain on your parade! Sincerely. I mean, lots of people do really like it, and even love it, judging from the stuff I saw while googling around. Plus there are 90-some stories for it on AO3 (I assume that possibly comes from the fannish tang it has natively as cesca mentions, plus also the fact that so many of the main group of characters end up sleeping with or at least making out with each other).

I think it just kinda climbed on my bad side, and also the audiobook bugged me, and all combined it's irritating enough that I am now constitutionally unable to give it a fair shake. *g*
przed: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] przed at 01:42pm on 24/05/2017
No worries. It got a lot of love from various (mostly non-fannish) people I know, so I'd asked for it for Christmas last year. Shall still give it a try, but won't be surprised if it doesn't take.

For literary fiction with an h/c fannish feel, I'm more inclined to give A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara a go. One Pros fan in particular recommended that as being sort of ur-hurt/comfort, which I am totally down for.
dorinda: Illya and Napoleon close together, like an engagement photo :D (uncle partners)
posted by [personal profile] dorinda at 01:51pm on 24/05/2017
Ooh hey, thanks for the rec! The public library has an ebook available, so I can easily scope it out. Oh, modernity, you do bring some nice things occasionally. \o/
przed: (pros mixed doubles gunrange)
posted by [personal profile] przed at 02:01pm on 24/05/2017
Glad to help out.

And hey, happy to see you on the Movie Pool list again! Ros is back for her second year running, though movie-hater that she is, she's decided that most of the movies coming out "suck." Mind you, with a lot of them, she's probably not wrong.
dorinda: A black and white puppy running on grass with a red ball in its mouth. (puppy_ball)
posted by [personal profile] dorinda at 02:22pm on 24/05/2017
Right back atcha! Yeah, I must admit, when I look over the tentpoles I mostly just feel tired. Like I've already seen them all. Except for Wonder Woman--I've heard good advance buzz for that one.

I forgot to submit catchphrases this year. D'oh! I'll start thinking some up for next year.
przed: (Stucky - First Avenger)
posted by [personal profile] przed at 02:44pm on 24/05/2017
Wonder Woman has me pumped. WW I action, woman power and Chris Pine's icy-blue eyes? I am so there. I'm also, for the first time in forever, looking forward to the Spider-Kid movie. It looks like there'll be Breakfast Club-like fun. The rest, meh. Mostly I'm just looking forward to the return of Cap and Bucky next year.

Last year, Ros' catch phrase was from Gilmore Girls. I think this year it's from the Nick show Victorious. I don't think this is an upward trend.
marycrawford: 13 hour clock icon (Default)
posted by [personal profile] marycrawford at 08:27am on 24/05/2017
Read it, tried to like it, bored by it, never reread it, meh. Life's too short!

Also, highly recommended in an unrelated genre: the Dortmunder series by Donald Westlake. I love them as books, but the unabridged audiobooks read by Michael Kramer are *amazing*. The guy actually sounds like he was born as a Westlake character, and he doesn't do annoying voices, but he does do little shifts of tone for each character that are sheer perfection.
dorinda: Sherlock Holmes smiles fondly, unseen, at Watson. (holmes_watson_01)
posted by [personal profile] dorinda at 01:44pm on 24/05/2017
Life is short; some books are rilly rilly long. :D

Thanks so much for the Michael Kramer-reading-Dortmunder rec!! I will search for them--sadly, my library system doesn't have the Kramer recordings, just one Dortmunder (Get Real) read by William Dufris. And yisssss, little shifts of tone are just what I like best. *rubs hands gleefully*
lynndyre: Fennec fox smile (Default)
posted by [personal profile] lynndyre at 09:55pm on 24/05/2017
I've not read it, so all I can say is I agree with everyone else, turn it off and go on to the next thing! And hopefully the next thing involves lots of sleep. :)
dorinda: A basset hound puppy with its long ears flapping sideways. (puppy_ears)
posted by [personal profile] dorinda at 12:52am on 26/05/2017
I returned the audiobook files to the library and felt instant relief. Now someone else who'll enjoy it properly can check it out. I have moved on to one of the Dortmunder books, as recced above by [personal profile] marycrawford--it sounds like a Robin-Hoodish-heist-from-the-rich by good natured highly-competent characters, which resembles other things I enjoy.

And I totally got sleep. Whew.
mlyn: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] mlyn at 01:25pm on 25/05/2017
Can't comment on the book but I'm interested in your commentary about book readers! Your descriptions of her ills are way more detailed and exact than I could do, but I think I follow along with them. I've tried recording fics for myself (i.e. not planning to share them with fandom, just for me to be able to passively "read" while doing something else) and I agree, it's an incredibly underestimated skill set. That shit is hard. I want to finish the project I started, actually, but it's such a big one that I'm not sure when I'll get around to it.

That said, I think there's a lot of personal taste to the performances. I recently listened to Claire Danes do The Handmaid's Tale and she did subtle voices for Aunt Lydia and, to a lesser extent, Serena Joy. The Aunt Lydia voice was fantastic. Not a huge change, but really bringing to life the rigid prudish sentimentality and quavering emotional speeches.

I also loved Will Patton doing all of the books in the Raven Cycle, and he did voices for every damn character and pulled it off astoundingly well. Aside from aalllllll the Aubreyad books read by Patrick Tull, that was the first one I got onto with an incredibly talented reader who could do it all. So I think voices are done by professional readers, but they have to be done *well*, and if they're not, they're awful.

I've also listened to a couple books with professional readers, and wished I could pull the sticks out of their asses. Crisp diction is one thing, sounding robotic is something else. A little warmth is nice.
dorinda: a tall ship with all sails set (sailing ship)
posted by [personal profile] dorinda at 12:48am on 26/05/2017
Totally agreed on the personal taste! It certainly sounds like I'd enjoy Danes and Patton--I suppose I find a difference between changes in tone/timbre/pitch, versus what I think of as "doing a voice". The readers who to my ear are "doing a voice" are usually signifying a type, instead of playing a full character. Like, the male readers who think, "Okay, this line is from a woman--women have high voices, so I'm going to go high and thin and 'femmy' and that means woman!" Versus men who might change their tone, timbre, and/or pitch, but subtly, not flatly, and not picking just one category and turning it up to eleven.

Patrick Tull for instance has that deep, round, rich voice, and yet he is excellent at all the female characters, from little girls to young women and up, of all classes and different races, and while he does alter aspects of his voice to create each character, I never feel like he's *doing* a voice, if you see what I mean. There are times I'd say he doesn't even change his pitch and yet the female character comes across very clearly, because he doesn't fall into the two-dimensional trap--there's so much else to a woman's voice other than "being high pitched", and in real life, some women have deeper voices than some men.

Some of my other favorites have been Martin Jarvis for a lot of Dickens novels (and talk about needing to distinguish a lot of different characters!), John Slattery (from Mad Men) who read the Stephen King novel Duma Key, Ian McKellen reading the Fagles translation of The Odyssey, and Martin Shaw reading the entire unabridged Silmarillion believe it or not. And I recently heard a very striking reading by Kate Mulgrew, doing "NOS4A2", a horror novel by Joe Hill. I've always liked her voice, but now with age and use and experience it has extra texture and complexity to work with.


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