Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Through the ear, Darkly:

Rosalyn Landor gives a stunning performance of the (abridged) audio book, Through a Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen.

In arts such as music and dance, there is usually a creator, a performer, and an audience. (To simplify, I shall refer to the audience as ‘you’.) There are also arts in which the conventional wisdom is that there is no performer, such as: reading a book.

I disagree with the common wisdom. In art, there is always a performer. Sometimes it is the person who created the art. Most often, it is you. You decide how to look at the Mona Lisa; where to look first, how to take in the details, how to bring the parts of the painting together. You decide how to view a statue. And when you read a book, you decide how the characters look, how they sound, how they move, and what the environments are like that they inhabit. The most detailed writer gives you, at best, clues in how to bring the work to life in your imagination. It’s a big responsibility, but it has its advantages. You can proceed at your own pace. You can make sure that the way you perform the work adjusts to your sensibilities. You can read into each book whatever you want.

When you listen to an audio book, it becomes very evident that a book must be performed in order to be perceived. I’m currently listening to a historical novel that, it seems to me, is not so great; but the performance is so good that the result is terrifically entertaining. Here's a negative review by Erica Jong. One of Jong's complaints, regarding the lack of depth in the characters, simply disappears in this engrossing performance. I rarely listen to abridged books. In fact, I picked this one up by accident. But after I finish it, I shall check out other book performances by Rosalyn Landor.

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