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Audiobooks

September 15, 2010

My commute to work isn’t atrocious…but it isn’t a quick jaunt either. Without traffic, I’m looking at twenty-five to thirty minutes. With traffic and hitting every single red-light (which somehow happens every. single. day.) that can climb to forty minutes in my car. Now, I KNOW that those numbers sound idyllic to those who use public transportation…but for me…if I’m not engaged in a phone conversation, I’m often bored. (Which probably answers this oft-asked question: “Why does Shelbi only call me when she’s driving?”)

Frankly, because it’s the longest stretch of “me” time I’m getting in my day, I might as well make the most of it, right?

Sure. But I haven’t been. My five year-long MO has been to listen to NPR in the morning (timing my arrival to school with StoryCorp  — which makes me cry 100% of the time) and then Dr. Laura on the way home. Now judge all you want. I realize that those two things will invariably land me on the opposite end of someone’s spectrum. To pepper your sentences with “Well, on NPR this morning…” (an unavoidable issue when one is listening to NPR every morning) is going to make someone roll his or her eyes and quickly label you as a leftist pretentious snob.

And then on the other end is Dr Laura — the uber conservative radio show host and author. Dr. Laura was the perfect driving home companion. The callers always had worse problems that I did AND if they didn’t, I could openly mock (in the comfort of my car) their idiocy: “Ummm, your three year-old is throwing tantrums because you’re not letting him watch “Saw 15”!? Grow a pair and tell that future psychopath no. Practice with me. N-o. Don’t you realize I am going to have to teach that child someday everything you fail to as a parent! Sheesh!” This type of radio backtalking was a great solution to my pent-up post-work rage.

BUT…

…I’ve decided to divorce myself from NPR (it’s not you — it’s me — I can listen to the segments I like online and bypass the touchy-feely news stories whose reporters qualified for work on public radio simply by having a strange voice. (No offense to you, Sarah Vowell. I love you and your quirky voice! (I don’t think she reads this blog; she’s busy writing cool books about history and being smarter than me. Sigh.))). <—Totally lost track of parenthetical statements within parenthetical statements there. Wowzers.

…And Dr. Laura. I’m kinda over you. I can give the advice you’re going to give without even blinking. And having this ability is not a skill I’d like to use or broadcast. Seriously, it would be the lamest party trick ever.

So, since I decided this new school year would be the end of my radio flipping ways, I knew I wanted to turn to audiobooks as my substitute. And since I’m Shelbi — type A planner, with a hint of an obsessive personality — I spent weeks researching the best audiobooks available. I scoured lists and awards — I looked up the actors’ voices and calculated finishing times. But when push came to shove, last Monday — when I wanted to start my audiobook adventure — I was audiobookless. It took me until Sunday to get to library, armed with a list of “wants”. But what do you know? Every book I wanted was on hold or unavailable. While Matt tried to keep Elliott entertained with puzzles and Sesame Street books in the children’s section, I poured over every single audiobook available.

Eventually, I had it narrowed down to two: Joe Hill’s Heart Shaped Box or Richard Price’s Lush Life. I had to choose between scary horror book destined to freak me out…but keep me interested. And a gritty police procedural with a million characters and the potential for a plot-let-down. I kept going back to Lush Life — a book that has interested me in its paper and ink form for some time now. Not only because Richard Price wrote on “The Wire” — a show I became addicted to during maternity leave and think was one the best things ever written for TV — but because I like gritty crime novels. So, I went with Price and started it on Monday.

All in all, it’s been an interesting experience listening to Lush Life. I’m a visual reader — I like to see the words and see a sentence. But I think this book works really well in an audiobook format — all the dialouge, the lingo, the descriptions really draw me into this story. Price’s writing is luxurious — everything is smooth and timed perfectly. So far…and I am only on disc 3…I’m loving it. With one tiny exception: At the end of disc 1, there is this big crime that happens — it’s the whole foundation for the drama. And the stupid CD had a scratch. Fantastic, right? The scratch had to be on THAT part — not ambling description or a meaningless exchange between characters. It skipped THE scene of the first half of the book.

Oh well, I’m tossing it up as a temporary set-back. Like when you go pee in a movie and realize at the end that you missed something important. I’ll probably figure it all out eventually.

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