January 29

Is this multimodal reading?

Life of Pi/ Water for Elephants/  Unpolished Gem/ The Night Circus/ Eyrie/ Burial Rites/

headphones-and-bookAll great books I have enjoyed recently; and all books I started using an Audible.com copy but finished with a physical book. Does this sound like you?

To be honest, I love the audible versions – especially those which involve obvious accents or strong voices. For example, in Water for Elephants, the elderly voice of Jacob Jankowski is an inspiring addition as the story is introduced. Listening to the Indian accent in Life of Pi, and the Chinese accents in Unpolished Gem is similarly authentic, and, as my car travels along my normal school-to-work routes, I also travel to places much further away.

In another way, the voicing of Burial Rites has been immensely helpful. Since it is set in Iceland, to be able to read the people- and place-names (without an authentic voice or knowledge of native pronunciations) is difficult. Cleverly, the reading also manages to distinguish between different voices and points of view by varying tone and volume to suit. And so I easily became well entrenched in the atmosphere of the grim story, as set by the tone and tempo of the story while it was read to me.

However, as I stated earlier, for each of these titles I have dipped in and out of both audio and print editions.

In one case, it was because my ereader ran out of power while I was on holidays – without the charger! I feverishly raided the stores till I found a print copy, and quickly finished the story. (And then had to beg/borrow/buy more, since I had relied on the store on my ereader!)

In the Night Circus, the movement of the book’s actions from one date to another made it difficult to keep track – and unlike Burial Rites the change of voice was not as clearcut or obvious. So once again, I found a print (library) copy.

It always surprises me how little I seem to have read when I do get my hands on a print copy, even after quite a few hours of listening in the car. It always seems as though I should be further into the story. Similarly, I am surprised how quickly I finish a print copy. Thus, I sometimes get impatient and want to read faster than the audio version – and move to the print edition. Then, the journey to work allows me to catch up with voices, tone and tempo – if the timing is right.

As I try to limit the piles of books which collect around my home, I am drawn more and more to ebooks and audio versions, though I find I still feel the need for both. I have, so far, avoided a print copy of Eyrie as I don’t want the expense and space taken by a hard cover book (though I might take a peek at a library copy one day, if I decide to revisit the oft poetic writing of Tim Winton).

What about you? Perhaps I just need to use my library more? (in conjunction with the audible versions?) But you do know how impatient you can be waiting to get your hands on the latest or hard-to-get editions!!

Any solutions? Advice?

March 20

Life of Pi – the book, the audio and the movie

It’s been interesting getting into Life of Pi in a number of different ways, as I have read the book from both a paperback and while driving my car (obviously with an audio version…).

Life of Pi has been on my to-read bookshelf for some time and, of course, came to my attention again recently, when promotion of the movie began. By ‘reading’ using combined audio and paperback, I found an unusual richness was added to the story with the contribution of a quality audio production*.

Martel’s writing is where all the magic begins, however, as he tells the tale of a young Indian boy on his journey to manhood. Pi has struggled for many years with taunting at school, derived from his name, Piscine. In spite of this, (or because of this?) Pi is a strong willed young man with a great curiosity of life and how the world around him works.

With a somewhat unusual homelife as a zookeeper’s son (what child wouldn’t love to grow up in a zoo?), Pi has developed keen powers of observation of animals of all kinds – humans included. This awareness of animal behaviour provides a great background later in the story, when he is set adrift in a lifeboat with a menagerie of different animals. His survival skills are well and truly tested to the limit!

His questioning nature is also revealed as he digs into the 3 main religions which exist in his Indian homeland – Christianity, Hinduism and Islam. As a curious child, he seeks an understanding of the differences and similarities of these faiths, and commits to all 3 – much to the ire of each of his religious teachers!

A move by his family, away from the politics brewing in India, results in their journey on a Japanese cargo ship to Canada. Their zoo is dismantled and animals are sold afar; some of which journey on the ship with them. The tragic sinking of the cargo ship begins another section of the book, where Pi faces the many challenges of being afloat on a lifeboat with very unusual company – including Richard Parker!

Martel’s writing is memorable, poetic and so rich that it is believeable. It is a book to make you think long after you finish it. It is fantasy, but also holds many truthful observations within it, and doesn’t necessarily provide a neat ‘happy ending’. As a winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2002, Life of Pi has had many reviews over the years, and has now been made into an award winning film (which I can now see, having first read the book!)

What messages did Life of Pi relate to you? Is it a believeable tale? Or is it an abstraction from reality? An allegory about human existence perhaps?

* the Audible.com version of Life of Pi was well narrated – the Indian accent added so much to the story, and made it even more compelling to listen to Martel’s poetic tale.

You can also view the film trailer:

(I have now seen the movie, and while it was great, I do prefer the book!!)

September 28

Sensing an audiobook – Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

‘Linger’ continues the Mercy Falls trilogy, and this time I’m “reading” it as an audiobook – and this is probably one of the best series to have as an audiobook. I am currently loving the change of voices as the story continues, introducing new characters and complications, emphasised even more by different voices.

Just as in ‘Shiver’, there is a fabulous awareness of senses as the story continues. I can smell the musky odour of the wolves, feel the heat and contortions as wolves and humans ‘shift’, and sense the anxieties of everyone as they try to understand the nature of what is happening to them all.

With the introductions of new characters, and in this audio verision, new voices, new tensions and new problems arise. Passing the reins to a younger wolf, Beck has passed on great responsibility to Sam, with new wolves being created and needing some guidance. The tensions of young love also add to to the problems to be resolved in ‘Linger’.

Throughout, there is the awakening of the senses of Grace – is she the next to be shifted to wolverine form?

Maggie Stiefvater uses words perfectly and accurately to portray this tale – and the readers of the audiobook greatly enhance this… (Though not sure whether I dislike Cole because of his voice or what he says.)

To be continued…

April 12

‘Reading’ in the car

I’m currently reading as I drive – by using an audio book version of ‘Inheritance of Loss’ by Kira Desai.

It’s an interesting exercise with these being my observations so far:

1.I need to have a fair way to drive (at least a half-hour journey or more…)

2. It’s great to have a book where the accents are acted out

3. It’s sometimes hard to catch a name (and guess how it’s spelt)

4. A talented narrator / reader makes all the difference (this one is a Penguin audiobook)

5. You can’t easily flick back to check your understanding

6. It’s probably best when you are alone! (Unless you regularly share interests with your passenger…)

inheritance-loss-bkpauk000086That said, I have enjoyed the experience – there would even be times that I would be tempted to stay in the car to continue with the story. And I am sure people have wondered what I might be laughing at as I drove by!

However, I have also found a copy of the book at a second hand bookshop (Brown’s Books in Springwood) so that I can check the place and character names I have been hearing. I can now ‘hear’ the voices of the characters as they ‘speak’ from the written page! I can still feel the book.  

And I don’t have to wait till I am in the car!

What have been your ‘reading’ experiences with audiobooks?