Sunday, June 5, 2011

A good audio book experience

Patricia Highsmith: Selected Novels and Short Stories
Since June is Audio Book Month, and it is still early in June, I thought I'd post about one of the books I listened to while on vacation.

In general, I'm not a huge fan of what most people call "vacation reads," in fact I once read Gravity's Rainbow on a cruise. Actually one benefit of going on vacation is extended, focused reading time (at least for me, but I'm a bit of a dork).

Of course, I do have my issues with paying attention to audio books to contend with, no matter where I am. I'm starting to see that crime/thriller books really do seem to be a good balance to get me to pay attention. Patricia Highsmith has always seemed slightly more "literary" than a lot of genre crime fiction, but I may just be trying to justify my reading choices. I found this volume of two novels and a bunch of short stories through Overdrive, and enjoyed listening to them all.

What makes them work? Well, there are two different narrators - Bronson Pinchot and Cassandra Campbell - and they alternate reading the stories and novels. Bronson reads Strangers on a Train and Cassandra reads The Price of Salt, which works very well, considering that most of the characters in Strangers on a Train are male and the opposite is true about The Price of Salt.

Bronson Pinchot in particular does an excellent job at creating subtle variations in voices of different characters - not different enough that it is ridiculous, but changes where I could easily tell who was talking. I hadn't paid attention to who the narrators were, and his voice reminded me quite a bit of James Marsters in his reading of the Dresden Files - kind of back in the jaw, slightly dry sarcasm, both of which work really well for Highsmith, I think, and crime/suspense in general.

As far as the contents of the novels and stories themselves - I haven't ever seen the Hitchcock film "Strangers on a Train," which he bought the rights to from Highsmith not long after she had published it. It is in a very similar vein to the Ripley novels, with characters who go down these dark paths that don't seem very practical. The Price of Salt is known as her "lesbian novel," and I can see how it was pretty startling at the time (so much that she published it originally under a pen name), but I loved hearing that it was based on some real-life experiences Highsmith had.

The short stories included in this volume are varied - from somewhat cute (the pigeons one) to startling (the wax museum one, good lord). It kept me interested, and that is always the highest praise I can give to a book in audio form.

I've just downloaded The Hunger Games as an audiobook. I have read it in print before, but one of the book clubs I am in is reading it for June, and I decided to do my re-read by listening. It seems like a book that would translate well to my listening needs - fast paced, strong characters, and since they are YA don't suffer from a lot of filler.

1 comment:

  1. You're right, the narrator is so important for audio books. And I find that I have to listen to easy-going books as my attention does tend to wander a bit when I'm listening to an audio-book.


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