Sunday 26 August 2012

Last post for August...

This is the last post for August, and the summer will feel like it's truly over then, although in truth, the season extends a few weeks past Labour Day.  That's how it feels for me, and September seems like the time to get serious, to take stock of the year and make plans to complete things that you wanted to do that year but never got around to doing.  Also the book awards season is approaching, as well as the time for all the "good" movies to be released, just in time to be considered for Oscar nomination.  So it's not just me that considers the fall as a time for seriousness.

I started reading Black Dogs by Ian McEwan last week.  If you recall, I mentioned that it is the book by that author that I remember least, and as I started reading it again, I realized why this is so:  it is not very interesting, and it begins with much rambling.  I didn't feel I had the patience for that at the time - maybe I'll try it again in the winter, when I'm less impatient and more inclined to read "slow" books.  I read instead a very strange book by Canadian author Christopher Meade entitled The Last Hiccup.  It tells the story of Vladimir, a young boy in pre-WWII Russia from a small town who wakes up one morning with a case of the hiccups.  These hiccups last for 12 years, despite medical efforts to treat this problem.  Young Vlad undergoes various treatments, all to no avail, and is ultimately whisked away to Mongolia where he is left in the company of a mystic for 10 years.  As he returns to civilization in the midst of the war, he experiences readjustment problems and encounters unusual individuals and situations on his journey to return home to his mother.  It was a very strange, surrealistic novel that is not my usual fare, and while the author clearly has talent as a writer, I felt that there were huge gaps left where the story could have been fleshed out and filled in with details that were essential, at least to this reader.  I'm not sure who would enjoy this type of book... perhaps I would recommend it to males who enjoyed dark comedies.  One reviewer who is quoted on the back of the book refers to the novel as "surreal CanHumLit" (CanadianHumourLiterature), and I would agree with this classification.  It was strange, but worth reading for me, as Meade is a Canadian author with whom I was unfamiliar, and I'm always interested in trying out new Canadian authors.  I will not, however, read anything else this author has written.

I'm nearly finished listening to an Agatha Christie audiobook, Hickory Dickory Dock.  I stopped listening to Ruth Rendell's The Vault, as I felt it was too complex and I was missing too many details, since I listen to audiobooks while I walk or while I'm on the bus going to or from work.  In these situations, sound level is impossible to control, and the narrator of that particular audiobook, while excellent in terms of voice differentiation for different characters, seemed to speak at very different volumes regularly.  In this way, I was unable to adjust the volume quickly enough to catch what he was saying, and so missed too much of the novel.  With my current audiobook, this is not a problem.  Although the narrator does vary the volume of his narration somewhat, I find with Agatha Christie novels there are so many opportunities for the characters to recap what has happened that I don't feel I miss much.  If I don't catch the information the first time around, I'm fairly certain that it will be discussed and analyzed again later.  It's interesting for me that the very first audiobook I listened to was Agatha Christie's The Body in the Library.  I was going to Toronto by bus once a week at that time, and wanted some other activity to do on the busride home besides reading, so I bought an MP3 player, thinking I could listen to music.  I didn't think I would enjoy listening to audiobooks, assuming that it would be too difficult to keep track of the story, especially if I had another book on the go that I was reading in the traditional way.  I thought that one of Christie's mysteries would be a good novel to try, because  they are usually short and not too complex, and I was right -I've been hooked on audiobooks every since!  Some books are better to listen to than others.  These characteristics will differ for each person, but for this listener, the narrator is very important.  I have to like the narrator's voice and style, almost more than the content of the book.  But the book is also important, and even if it's a favourite narrator, if I don't like the book, I can't listen to it.  I also find that the book generally needs to be one that is fast-paced, or at least plot-driven.  I tried to listen to one of my favourite narrators read Lady Chatterley's Lover, which is all about language, and I had to stop listening.  I find classics are hard to listen to, better to read.  Mysteries are great to listen to, as they generally depend on plot and detail, not so much on character or language.  Unfortunately, with an audiobook, you can't just pick it up and read the first few pages to try it out.  You have to select it and download it, then start listening to it before you can make a judgment call.  I'm sure I delete as many books as I listen to, but that's OK, since I download them free from the library and I'm sometimes pleasantly surprised to discover a book or author I would never have picked up as a book, but that I really enjoyed as an audiobook.  So books are good in various formats, at different times, for various reasons.  I say now that I don't think I would like e-books, but who knows?  Maybe if I tried that format, I'd be hooked, too.

That's all for today.  Enjoy the last week of August...

Bye for now!

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