Friday, June 5, 2009
I picked up The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell as a 6 CD audio book. I only listen to audio books on long solo car trips with much time and Interstate space to fill.
Sarah Vowell is a frequent contributer to NPR programs. I have heard her several times on This American Life and I love her voice (she voiced Violet in the Pixar animated film The Incredibles). Among other things, she writes about history with a twist, and I had just heard her read a great piece on This American Life about General Lafayette's triumphant return to America in 1824.
The Wordy Shipmates is a commentary and non-fiction account of the pilgrims and the puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the mid 17th century. I was looking forward to listening to this because she is very funny and very observant and again, she has this great reading voice and the CD's promised to bring in guest actors to read the parts of the pilgrims. (If you are marginally familiar with pop culture and look at the CD jacket you'll note an impressive array of guest readers.)
Well, I have to admit, it was not the most rousing work to listen to on a long car trip. My attention kept wandering. Yes, she used some of her characteristic humor, but I do not think she could decide if she wanted to book to be a funny piece that was a comment on history and the religious underpinnings of our nation or a serious historical work that happened to have some snarky comments injected in the narrative. As an audio book, it did not hold my interest for the 12 plus hours of driving I had to do.
Generally, I think that listening to a story and reading a story are different adventures in understanding a narrative so don't let me discourage you from exploring this work and others by her. She really is a quite astute observer of life and interpreter of history. Check out This American Life to listen to one of her many audio stories.
Do you have a favorite Audio book? Do you prefer listening or reading yourself?