Beautiful Korea

Beautiful Korea

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Audio books and the state of my apartment

What do audio books have to do with the state of my apartment? A whole lot, as it turns out.

My current audio book is an unabridged version of Dracula read by Robert Whitfield. It's excellent and I'm enjoying it very much.

The previous one was an unabridged version of The English Governess at the Siamese Court, read by Nadia May. There was nothing wrong with the reader or the production, but the book itself was another matter.

As you might guess from the title, this is the autobiographic work upon which The King and I was loosely based. While it had many interesting parts, I found it at times annoying, at other times boring and repetitive, and occasionally confusing.

That last is not entirely the fault of the work itself--were it in printed form I would have been able to check back and verify the names, but there is no easy way to do this with an audio book. Most of the confusion was due to my unfamiliarity with Thai names, and the great length of the names of people associated with the Siamese court, which combined to make them nearly impossible for me to remember. But the repetitiveness contributed to my confusion, as I wondered if she were really telling the same story about the same person again, or if a similar event had happened to a different person.

My greatest annoyance with the book was how poorly organized it was. It seemed to have been written simply as she thought of it, with no overall organization or structure at all, except a very, very loose chronological one which jumped around quite a bit, but did begin with her accepting the job at the Siamese court, and except a last bit about travels in Cambodia, ended with her resigning that position and leaving Siam. I can understand it being written in this way, but what I cannot understand is why it was not subsequently edited to tell the story in a clear and interesting way, and avoid the confusion and tedium of unnecessary repetition.

I don't mind, and even enjoy it, when an author plays around with the organization/structure of a work of fiction, especially when it's done effectively and for a purpose. But I rather resent nonfiction which meanders pointlessly and makes the true story it tells more difficult to understand, appreciate, and enjoy.

However, it was interesting to read about Siam during that period, and even more interesting to see how an Englishwoman of the time perceived it. The author seemed to be a courageous and genuinely good person, albeit one highly prejudiced in favor of (her version of) Christianity and against pagan religions, as well as possessed of a very strong sense of English superiority to the rest of the world. That said, she does, to her credit, attempt to present a fair picture, and doubtless believed that she had. If you have any interest in the true story behind The King and I and don't mind poorly organized nonfiction, it may be worth your time.

But given the title and opening line of the post, you may be wondering by now what all this has to do with my apartment.

Well, I'm not fond of cooking, cleaning, washing dishes, doing laundry, and other similar tasks related to taking care of one's home and oneself. So I reward and motivate myself to do them by listening to audio books for entertainment while I do them. This works extremely well when the book is good and I'm eager to listen. But this system breaks down entirely when I'm not motivated to listen to the audio book.

Until I finally finished The English Governess at the Siamese Court, I was not highly motivated to listen for the reasons mentioned above, and thus only listened to the book while I did the most necessary chores: cooking, washing dishes, and doing laundry. This meant both that the book took a long time to finish as I didn't listen to it that much, and also that all the non-necessary tasks around my apartment, like sweeping, mopping, dusting, straightening up, etc., were entirely neglected. Needless to say, my apartment gradually got into a pretty sad state.

After I, at long last, completed The English Governess at the Siamese Court, and moved on to Dracula, the state of my apartment began to improve dramatically. The only problem is that Dracula is not a particularly long novel, and soon it will be over. I fervently hope that the next audio book is as enjoyable, because my apartment still needs work after all the weeks of neglect.

No comments:

Post a Comment