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Lawson annoys me - The Ex-Communicator

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April 10th, 2009


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10:33 am - Lawson annoys me
Somebody is wrong in the media! Specifically Mark Lawson in the Guardian, ranting about how audio books are bad.

For most works of literature in most circumstances, a fully sighted reader who is not in a car or on foot should be reading rather than hearing... talking stories ultimately risk an infantilisation of literature: a vision of a Britain full of grown-ups having stories read to them; books that, exacerbating the babying, will often be the Harry Potter novels. Adults should read grown-up stories to themselves. The best reading - always - takes place without a sound to be heard.


Right. I am not going to type a string of expletives but this idiotic view - tellingly he can't resist mentioning Harry Potter - demeans the experience of literature almost as much as a refusal to read at all. Art is not an obligation or a test - it is a bounty, it's an enrichment of life. It's not about proving who you are to other people. It's about... oh, you know anyway, even if that idiot Lawson doesn't.

I mainly listen to novels when I am walking, but is it so bad to listen to them when I am doing housework? What's wrong with wanting to close my eyes and hear Michael Sheen read Kubla Khan? Are people who listen to Book at Bedtime on Radio 4 thus infantilised?

ooh, it's enough to make you write a strongly worded letter to the Guardian

ETA - but in fact I registered with the Guardian online thing and posted a cross comment

(25 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:altariel
Date:April 10th, 2009 09:49 am (UTC)
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It's obviously nonsense.

Speaking for myself, I prefer to read because I have such a strong visual relationship to words, and because I find it difficult to listen to the spoken workd and do anything else at the same time, and I don't have a commute during which I could do this (I listen to short stories while I'm exercising).

I've wondered in the past whether audiobooks are generally abridged, but browsing around Audible and similar places, that doesn't seem to be necessarily the case.

So, yes, nonsense.
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From:communicator
Date:April 10th, 2009 09:58 am (UTC)
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There are a large number of abridged books on audible, alas, and I don't think they are a good idea because they aren't as enjoyable, though I guess they are an outreach to people. I stupidly brought an abdriged verion of To The Lighthouse last year, but they do have it unabridged, so it's on my list.

But then Readers Digest do abridged print books don't they (I think that's what Readers Digest is) so it's not confined to audio.

I have an email in my draft folder to Chris Barrie, begging him to do more audio books, but I'm putting off sending it at the moment because he'll be thinking about the Red Dwarf revival tonight. Oh, must post about that.
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From:redstarrobot
Date:April 10th, 2009 11:42 am (UTC)
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Reader's Digest is actually a magazine. The books are their sideline.
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From:lamentables
Date:April 10th, 2009 09:56 am (UTC)
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Mark Bloody Lawson is always wrong. Even when he's alone in the forest.
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From:communicator
Date:April 10th, 2009 09:58 am (UTC)
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That really did make me laugh out loud. I had a vision of him toppling over with a dismayed look on his face, and nobody hearing.
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From:lamentables
Date:April 10th, 2009 10:02 am (UTC)
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I have to confess to stealing the line. If I remember correctly, nolley once asked 'if a man is alone in the forest, is he still wrong'.
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From:several_bees
Date:April 10th, 2009 10:02 am (UTC)
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Gosh, what an odd attitude to take. It is very clear to me that reading something aloud will often reveal problems with its structure, word choice, flow, etc, which it is possible to skim over oblivious in silent in-your-head form; that in many circumstances something has to be substantially better-written to stand up to recitation or a proper reading than it does to stand up on the page.
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From:communicator
Date:April 10th, 2009 10:05 am (UTC)
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That's a good point. Though sometimes I think I get away with quite a lot with my poetry because I read it with conviction which persuades the audience it makes more sense than it does when they read it to themselves.

Do you do live performance? I know you do live action street things - my sister's boyfriend does those in Nottingham.
[User Picture]
From:several_bees
Date:April 10th, 2009 11:16 am (UTC)
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Oh, interesting - of course I've never heard you read your poems aloud, so don't know how that compares to reading them on the page (on the screen, even).

I don't do live performance, except inasmuch as there's often a performative element to games and things I'm running - I do occasionally lead tours etc, but that's "recounting interesting stuff" rather than "performing carefully-written things". I would be quite scared of live performance of things I've written because of, as I say, fearing that it wouldn't stand up to it very well - I tend to write very hurriedly and revise less carefully than I should, just because the only way I get fiction written ever is to set deadlines and end up finishing things at 2am. When I (rarely) have enough time to revise properly I do read aloud to myself, and always find things I need to fix that I hadn't noticed in written form.

What sort of stuff does your sister's boyfriend do? (Asking because part of my work involves keeping track of interesting things people are doing in this general area, and a monthly event I curate may be going on tour to Nottingham later in the year.)
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From:communicator
Date:April 10th, 2009 11:35 am (UTC)
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He specialises in audio art, and they do a thing where people wear wireless headsets and walk through the city - my sister says you are in a crowd and suddenly half a dozen of you all turn to the left or something and you realise they are listening to the same material
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From:julesjones
Date:April 10th, 2009 11:00 am (UTC)
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What an idiot that man is. I generally don't buy audiobooks, but I certainly listen to a lot of Book At Bedtime, because a good reading performance is a thing of joy that can enhance my experience of the work. And I read a *lot* of books on paper before medical issues put a stop to my book-a-day habit.
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From:communicator
Date:April 10th, 2009 11:06 am (UTC)
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The two forms are not in competition. I just don't understand his attitude.
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From:julesjones
Date:April 10th, 2009 11:14 am (UTC)
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He seems to have this idea that when it comes to meatspace interactions, adults only read to children, not to each other, and thus it is childish for an adult to want to be read to. To which I say, he doesn't have much sense of history, then. Reading aloud to the family was a common form of entertainment back in the days before electronic mass entertainment. I was struck by this when reading Mansfield Park last week, and Jane Eyre prior to that.
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From:splodgenoodles
Date:April 10th, 2009 11:55 am (UTC)
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For most human beings who've every lived on this planet, stories have been told, recited and/or sung. And if he's about to mutter something about how indigenous Australians, or maybe the first Buddhists, or the norse peoples or whoever are infantile as a result, well maybe he should go and mix with like minds at the local Nazi Party.

(oops! Godwin's Law - I lose!)
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From:communicator
Date:April 10th, 2009 02:55 pm (UTC)
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For Lawson it's all about what it looks like to other people, what it 'says about you'. And I just think that is such a depressing way of thinking about the value of reading a book.
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From:ninebelow
Date:April 10th, 2009 12:18 pm (UTC)
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Lawson is such an arse. It winds me up something chronic that his role in both Newsnight and the Guardian is simply to fill space, nothing he says is insightful, it merely marks time.
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From:communicator
Date:April 10th, 2009 02:55 pm (UTC)
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I've just gone back to the thread in the Guardian and he's being eviscerated by the commenters
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From:gair
Date:April 10th, 2009 02:05 pm (UTC)
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Good to know no-one was fully adult before the tenth century Vergil! You know your celebrated reading of the Aeneid to the Emperor and his family? HANG YOUR HEAD IN SHAME LIKE A TINY CHILD.
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From:communicator
Date:April 10th, 2009 02:58 pm (UTC)
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I notice that a reference to Harry Potter has become a marker for this act of shaming. OMG some adults are reading books that are clearly demarcated for children. They'll be reading Beatrix Potter next. On the tube where people can see them!
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From:gair
Date:April 10th, 2009 03:08 pm (UTC)
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Well, as you know I pretty much think that this

Harry Potter - demeans the experience of literature almost as much as a refusal to read at all

is true, but of course not because it's a children's book! So I would have to side with HP/JKR over ML on that one (in a sort of my-enemy's-enemy kind of way...)
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From:communicator
Date:April 10th, 2009 03:16 pm (UTC)
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I've read all the HP books once through. I've actually got Azkhaban on audio, confirming all ML's prejudices, but I gave up after just a few minutes of it (ETA - I've just checked, actually and hour and a half!). I'm only saying this to give some kind of context.

I am prepared to go to the line to say that the value in any literature is what people can get from it, and the Harry Potter series seems to offer this capacity to unpack value. But there are limits - for me the monstrous exception is Dan Brown. I just can not accept that there's any value to be had from it.

(by 'it' I mean his oeuvre I guess)

Edited at 2009-04-10 03:30 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:toft_froggy
Date:April 10th, 2009 03:27 pm (UTC)
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What?! That makes no sense at all! Why on earth is being read a book 'infantilising'? What an idiot.
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From:communicator
Date:April 10th, 2009 03:32 pm (UTC)
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He's goofed this time I think
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From:emeraldsedai
Date:April 10th, 2009 07:25 pm (UTC)
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Oh man, that is so wrongheaded! Okay, I'll admit, I'm no longer quite as "fully-sighted" as I once was, and the not wanting to put reading glasses on has driven some of my flight to audiobooks.

But still! The experience of being read to is a delight! When books were scarce, one person might read to the whole family, adults and children alike, because everyone couldn't retire to a private corner to read his or her own book (blog, website, whatever).

An audiobook isn't generally the shared experience that storytelling, reading aloud, and radio once were. It's a hybrid. Not pure enough for Mr Lawson, I guess, but a great source of richness to me.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:April 10th, 2009 11:49 pm (UTC)
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I like being read to in person, but it's something that hardly ever happens. My daughter and I sometimes read to each other; we read Hitchikers Guide to the galaxy a few months ago. We don't do it enough, really.

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