|This is my dog, Poppy, who leaves enough hair around, I could make another dog when I sweep. She also loves to play with Harry.|
Back in May, I posted here about what I learned listening to audio books. I have been doing that - listening not posting - for 7 months now since my eyes are impaired and I am not able to read for long periods. In May, I was confident that the health issue would resolve quickly, but quickly has not even been on the radar. While I am better, the better has come slowly, and I still have no idea when, or if, I will get back to 100%.
Maybe it isn't all the heat?
Anyway, the more I listen to audio books, the more I notice little mistakes that grate on my very last nerve. In the May post, I wrote about the irritation of listening to all the "he saids" "she saids" in books by Robert B. Parker. And the irritation is still strong. When reading the books, those dialogue attributives are easily overlooked. Aloud, they end up sounding like fingernails scraping on glass after a while.
I broke my vow not to listen to another Parker novel when Painted Ladies became available in audio at my local library. It is the final book that Parker wrote before he died in 2010, and since I had read, and enjoyed, so many of his books, I wanted to give this one a try.
I have long been a fan of Parker's stories, and for many of us mystery writers, he was our teacher. Not literally, of course, but by reading his books where we learned about spare writing, revealing character through dialogue, and twisting a plot into such a knot, the reader wonders if it will ever get untangled by reading his books.Those are just a few of the many reasons that Parker won prestigious awards for his writing: The Shamus, The Edger and the Gumshoe Lifetime Achievement Award.
So it is again, hard for me to say anything negative about his work. However, I am struggling to stay with it. The story line is good. The banter is pure Spenser, maybe not at his best, but certainly in character. And I really do want to know why the art history professor was blown up, but the fingernails are reaching for the windowpane.
Thinking about how much better it would be for most of those dialogue attributives to be skipped, I wondered why people who are narrating a book for audio versions don't automatically make changes that would make the listening experience better. Or how come they don't correct a mistake that the author made, and the editor did not catch.
For instance, in another book I listened to, a character was called by the wrong name for several exchanges in a scene and then went back to the real name. As a narrator you would think that they could say, "Oh that's not the right name I should probably not say it even though the author wrote it."
I did a bit of surfing on the Internet to see if I could find information on what a narrator can change, or not change, in a book, and was not able to find anything. From performing in live theatre, I know that actors are not supposed to change words in plays, especially those that are published by the majors like Samuel French. However, I have been in productions where some words were taken out or changed, but only a tiny fraction of the overall play. That seems to be okay, as long as the percentage is so low it is hardly noticed.
So the actress in me wonders why an audio book narrator can't smooth out awkwardness, like the "saids", and fix the mistakes.
What do you think? Should narrators fix mistakes, or simply read what the author wrote?
Maryann Miller - novelist, editor and sometimes actress. Her most recent mystery, Doubletake, was named the 2015 Best Mystery by the Texas Association of Authors. She has a number of other books published, including the critically-acclaimed Season Series that debuted with Open Season. Information about her books and her editing rates is available on her website. When not writing, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas.