52 Movies: Week 3 - Annie Hall
The State of American Politics

Fahrenheit 451

I mentioned a few weeks ago (in a comment on Louise's George Orwell post) that I had listened to a recording of part of this book and had found it disappointing. I knew the recording was at least part of the problem. I just didn't care for the actor's voice and style, and didn't want to hear any more. So my wife picked up a used paperback for me, and I read the rest of it. 

Usually I find that hearing a recording of a novel enhances the experience. In particular I remember a couple of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series, in which the actor's version of various voices and accents made the characters more vivid and immediate than they were on the page. But in this case it was the other way around. I think it must have been this version by Tim Robbins that I heard. He's a good actor, so maybe it was just a matter of my taste.

At any rate, I enjoyed the second half of the book much more than I had the first. Bradbury's tendency to over-write didn't bother me as much, and there seemed to be somewhat less belaboring of the wonderfulness of books. Or maybe I just didn't notice it as much. Anyway, the narrative seemed to take on more life. It still is, for me, one of those books read in adolescence which might better have been left there. But Bradbury's insights into the effects of electronic media are pretty impressive, especially considering that television was still a new thing at the time--the book was published in 1953 but the original version of the story had been written in 1950.

The edition I read is the 50th anniversary edition pictured here. It includes some interesting extra material by Bradbury himself, certainly worth seeking out if you're a fan of the book or of Bradbury in general.




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I thought you might like it better from the book. Recorded books are strange in a way. I have been listening to (over and over and over) some chapters of Everlasting Man and the reader has become Chesterton to me. I get irked if he mispronounces a word because I think GCK should know better.


One of my brothers is really keen on audiobooks - listens to them in the car when he's on his way anywhere. I simply can't get the hang of them. With very few exceptions, I've always found the voices rather jarring.

I'm the other way around--as far as I can remember this recording of F451 is the only one I've ever encountered where I actively disliked the reading, though there have been some where I was indifferent. I don't really listen to that many audio books, though. Mainly on long trips.

I have the same experience as you with several writers, Janet, of identifying the reader with the author. Usually it's not a bad thing. I've listened to a number of Tony Hillerman mysteries read by the same person. It's not an especially remarkable performance, but it's enjoyable, and now it almost seems like something's missing when I read one. There's a recording of Brideshead Revisited by the guy who played Ryder in the BBC series...can't come up with the name right now...but I think it's superb.

Oh, there are a couple of readers I really like. One is George Guidall who reads the Tony Hillerman book among other things. Another is Barbara Rosenblat who reads the Mrs. Pollifax books, which, if you haven't read them, are very amusing. Actually, I've never read one, only listened to them. They might not be as funny if you read them.


I tried listening to two or three fiction audiobooks, but didn't stay with them because the reader did different voices for the different characters, which I found annoying. Are most fiction audiobooks done that way?

In my experience, yes. Usually the biggest problem I notice is men trying to do women's voices and women trying to do men's. Difficult at best, obviously. That was one of my big problems with F451--the way he did Clarisse (the free spirit girl) just sounded like a very effeminate man, or like a man making fun of a women. It completely messed up the impression you were supposed to get. But sometimes it works ok. The Hillerman reader that Janet mentions does ok, I think. He doesn't try too hard.

That last bit is pretty much what I was going to say. Most of the readers try to differentiate between the characters to some exent, but they don't do it in an exaggerated way. I agree about the problem with opposite sexes, although the men doing the women's voices bothers me more.

Lately, they have been getting well-known actors to read the books. I think that now they are moving toward having a cast of readers. I haven't heard one of those yet. I don't think I'll like that.


I can imagine that working very well, or very badly.

One instance I can think of where the voice made a very big difference was one of M.C. Beaton's Hamish Macbeth mysteries. These are set in rural and small-town Scotland, and the reader used what I presume were accurate accents and dialects. It was very convincing, at any rate, and if I'd just been reading I'd have missed a lot of the flavor.

I rarely listen to audiobooks, but we did once spend a good chunk of a long car trip listening to Seamus Heaney read his own translation of Beowulf. Even the kids were spellbound.

I can imagine that working very well, or very badly. Right. I don't see any middle ground. The really well might be something like a radio drama.


I've never really taken to audio books. I've got a few good Wodehouse ones (can't remember the reader's name -- I got them cheap at Borders when they were going out of business) and Dostoevsky's 'Notes From Underground' read by a fellow named Zimmerman (very good) but that's about it.

I've never sat at home and listened to one. But as I mentioned before they can be great on a long drive, especially on an interstate highway which is likely to be pretty boring.

Here's something about the woman who recorded the Hamish Macbeth book. Apparently she's a big name in this field. It's been at least ten years since I listened to it, but I can still hear her pronunciation of "Loch Dubh" and a few other bits from the book.

"they can be great on a long drive, especially on an interstate highway which is likely to be pretty boring"

Yes, that's really the only time I've used them.

Well, I have a long drive every day. ;-)

What they have really helped me with is books that I have to read for book clubs. It's the only way I can keep up.


I have very little experience with audiobooks, but I have been listening to the Aubrey-Maturin novels during my commute. I have the set read by Patrick Tull, and I really like it. He does the accents, and tackles the sea-faring jargon with gusto.

No doubt the same reader I heard on those. It's the only way I've experienced any of those novels, and something would definitely be lost in reading them.

Like years of your life. ;-)

I read about five, I think, and I liked them, but I just didn't have the time to keep reading them. Bill has been working on them for quite a while.


I've got through the first 10 of the Aubrey-Maturin novels in the past 2 years; I have another 10 to go. That's been a fairly leisurely pace, taking breaks for other things.

Am I the only one tempted by the recent unabridged audiobook of The Faerie Queene from Naxos? Only 24 CDs! I've been circling around that book for years, afraid to commit. It seems like just listening to it would be easier. But it might actually be harder to understand if I'm not reading it.

And a bargain at $108.99!

I'm going to hazard a guess that you are the only one. I'm pretty sure I would find it much easier going on the page. But funny that you mention this, as I was thinking about it earlier today (can't remember why) and what I was thinking was: I guess I should just face facts and put this in the category of Books That At My Age I'm Not Even Going To Pretend I'll Ever Read.

I really enjoyed book 1, but struggled to finish book 2 and didn't get very far at all with book 3. Whoever wrote the summary of the books on Wikipedia seems to have had a similar problem.

I can't say I'm a big fan of audiobooks. Some of the best memories of my childhood are being read to by my father, but being read to by whoever they hired doesn't really do anything for me.

I have to say that an exception to that is when the author reads his own work. I have a recording of Tolkien reading "Riddles in the Dark" which I love. Perhaps that's a special case - a great chapter by my favorite author.

But a few years ago I listened to an audiobook of short stories by Niel Gaiman when I was driving. The stories ranged from very good to ok to morally questionable..., but I think they were definitely improved by listening to them. Now, Gaiman has a very good voice, but I think it's more than that. Somehow, when someone else records a book, I feel like there is a barrier between me and the work. When the author reads it, it seems like I am getting a more authentic product.

I'm sure that there are plenty of writers I wouldn't want to hear, but when a writer has the voice to read his own work it seems to me that a barrier is removed compared to someone else reading it.

There's a recording of Flannery O'Connor reading "A Good Man Is Hard to Find." It's great--link.

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