Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Books Read in 2010: "Never Have Your Dog Stuffed" by Alan Alda

An abridged audio book. Wait! I can explain.

There are two versions at Audible, abridged and unabridged. The abridged version is read by Alan Alda, while the unabridged is not. Normally, I would pick an unabridged version, except I have this thing about hearing certain authors read their own work. Sarah Vowell or David Sedaris come to mind, because there is a certain element of performance in their work. Because I came to know of them from their pieces on This American Life, and because they have distinct voices, both in their writing and literally, I can't help but hear their voices when I read their work in print as well. I also think that one of the objections that people raise to audio books -- that someone else is interpreting the author's words for you -- is removed when you can hear a phrase read EXACTLY the way the author wanted it to be read/heard.

When I'm listening to a book written by a well known person, but read by someone else, I have this strange disconnect going on in my head. I work to replace the voice that I'm hearing with the voice that I imagine should be there instead. The best example I can think of is when I listened to "The Assault on Reason" by Al Gore a couple of years ago. It was an interesting book, but Gore has a distinct voice -- or, some would argue, drone -- that Will Patton, the reader, did not have. And I knew that if I listened to a book by Alan Alda, someone who I grew up watching on TV on" M*A*S*H", someone whose voice I knew and expected to hear, I would be distracted. So I picked the abridged version and figured that a certain quality would come across in the reading of the text and the telling of the stories that would offset the loss of some of the words.