Monday, August 19, 2013

Audio Renaissance

My commute to work now consists of two options: biking and driving.  I can't bring myself to take public transportation that involves a connection.  Well, it's not just the connection—it's that the second leg involves catching a very occasional bus at its busiest stop.  There's just no way for that to be comfortable, and a very strong chance of having a long, uncomfortable wait that makes me late for day care pickup.  (I will admit that day care pickup is the non-selfish-sounding reason I use to justify the fact that I hate that commute.  Day care is pretty flexible since my normal pickup is not at closing time. Full disclosure, you know.)

It's actually a lovely little Hobson's choice, if I'm using the phrase correctly, in that both options are quite nice.  In good weather, I ride my bike, get some great exercise, and generally have a very pleasant trip.  The only downside is that I have no access to any kind of books on my bike ride (yes, I really and truly think that way, it's not just facetiously put on for my book blog).

In poor weather, I take the car.  This is slightly faster, and has the bonus of my newly reinvigorated love of audiobooks. I was discussing The Dresden Files recently, which I was enjoying, but I've put them down.  Brenda pointed out that she hated the Murphy character, and I didn't agree in the first book, but halfway into the second one, I do.  Harry's kind of a sad sack, which was making me gloomy, but it doesn't help that every time something bad or scary happens, his best friends jump to the conclusion that it's his fault.  Poor Harry doesn't know the difference between a friend and an acquaintance who feels sorry for you.

God, I'm making myself sad just thinking about it.

So I switched over to Sarah Waters's The Little Stranger.  I've been wanting to read Waters for a while, having heard many glowing reviews; she writes a lot of historical fiction with lesbian characters.  This one is not quite in her usual realm, in that it's billed as a more standard ghost story.  20% of the way in we're just starting to get hints of what might be the ghosts, but I don't mind at all.  We've got the crumbling local manor, and the very class-conscious doctor who's befriended the genteelly (spell check says I can say that) impoverished widow and her two grown children who live there. 

The narrator is the doctor, and the voice is provided by Simon Vance, who does an absolutely wonderful job with it.  His lower class girls are a bit of a struggle, but everyone else just shines.  This is a case where hearing the audio does this lovely job of polishing up the unreliable narrator for you—his voice is so solid and trustworthy that it comes as quite shocking when he says something that reveals his bitterness at his working-class origins.  I think in a lesser book, I would be struggling with this, because I have a real problem with picking out unreliable narrators, but this is really well crafted, and the subtext is clear without being explicit.  I don't need to be talked down to, but I do need to be confident when I'm drawing conclusions.

(God, I remember the time I was talking to someone about how I didn't like the movie The Hours because everyone was just so gloomy and the person I was talking to said, "Wow, you really don't have a lot of sympathy for people suffering from depression, do you?"  And I cannot tell you how embarrassed I still am to say that I didn't realize the story was about depression till that very moment.  I'm dim, is what I'm saying, and I like my art representational and my themes well-constructed.  Also, in my defense, that lunch was very awkward even before we started discussing The Hours.)

I'm rambling.  I was talking about The Little Stranger, and how I'm not very far in but I'm very much enjoying it.  And I don't care if it rains tomorrow or if the sun is shining; my commute will be lovely either way.

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