Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Shittiest Fucking Audiobook I've Ever Listened To

I'm a sucker for audiobooks, since they allow me to listen to books while I'm driving and give me the feeling that I'm pumping knowledge into my head without having to do much work. After listening to a ton of them over the past few years, I've begun to have some favorite readers (oh how I love that snide-sounding Frederick Davidson), and I know what to look for when hunting down audio versions of books that I want to "read." Some audiobooks that I've stumbled into blind have been fantastic, such as Jeremy Irons' reading of Lolita, while others have been annoying, like the jerk-off who did that new unabridged reading of Catch 22. Anyhow, there have rarely been audiobooks that actually anger me, but I did come across one last year that I feel I should talk about. It's a big, expensive, unabridged reading of a book that I've been meaning to read for several years now: Patrick Healey's shit reading of James Joyce's Finnegans Wake.


A simple diagram of the plot and characters


Now, before I start, let me just tell anyone who doesn't know: Finnegans Wake is the most difficult book to read in the English language. Joyce basically made up a language of puns and plays on words, chucked in a ton of foreign vocabulary, and shit out a plot that nobody can agree actually exists. In a way, the plot to Finnegans Wake is similar to Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster: small groups of people swear it exists, but the vast majority laugh at them and tell them to get a life. Needless to say, anyone even attempting to read this book in general should be commended, and one would think that someone with the balls to do an unabridged reading of it deserves to be heaped with praise. Well, yeah. In a way, they are. BUT, if you're going to do a recording and charge 275 fucking Euros for it, you better damn well be a professional. Unfortunately, Patrick Healey just seems like someone who did this as a bar bet, and it really shows in the recording.

A little common sense: if you're charging 275 euros for an audiobook, don't approach the material like a fucking Librivox recording. Healey takes a book that needs, nay, DEMANDS a slow, careful reading, and speeds through it like he only has a day to finish. To put this in perspective, the fantastic unabridged audiobook of Joyce's Ulysses spanned 40 CDs, with the book being around 600 pages long. Finnegans Wake is a longer book, a thousand times more dense, and Healey gets the fucker read on 17 discs. This makes it fucking impossible to reflect on anything that he says in the book, because once you think you understand what one sentence meant, he's already five pages ahead of you, laughing in your face.

The speed of his reading is the cause of another major issue with this audiobook: he frequently stutters, trips up on words, and has to start over. Are you fucking kidding me? Look, I know that with any reading of Finnegans Wake there's going to be issues with the words, but a professional would have that shit worked out before walking into the recording booth. If you're going so fast that you're fucking up the text, slow the fuck down. Finally, he reads every goddamn sentence with nary a change in tone, and when he does change his tone, its into some mumbling, slow bullshit that sounds like he hired one of the Kids of Widney High to take over for a few minutes. I have never, ever, ever in my life had a more annoying experience with an audiobook. It almost made me want to fly to Ireland so I can kick this guy in the nuts, even though I don't know if he even lives there.

For those saying that maybe this book can't be read well, I say bullshit. There's an abridged reading done by Jim Norton that, from what I've heard, sounds fantastic and professional. He actually takes his time with the text and doesn't marathon it. I would literally let this man take a shot in my mouth and fiddle with his taint if he would just record the entire goddamn book unabridged at this pace, but chances are I'm just going to be stuck with Healey's bullshit recording.

The only possible thing that could be worse than this reading would be War & Peace read by Rosie Perez, or Les Miserables by Chris Tucker. Other than that, this recording is crap, and if you love Joyce, do yourself a favor and just record yourself reading it to listen to. It's pretty much the same thing.

8 comments:

bucky3 said...

Is there a good version? Of F W unabr? I just got thru 50 CDs of Atlas SHrugged ($35) and it was great. Thanks. jwilkin@mac.com

Roland Saint-Laurent said...

None that I'm aware of. It's one of those books that, really, we're lucky that anyone decided to do it. That the results came out so piss-poor is inexcusable.

John Rampage said...

I don't think the way this is discussed is kind. The reading was made in the early 90s as an artistic project at a time when both the know how and equipment would have been very expensive. The price that is being charged for the product is also hardly the reader's responsibility. I know Patrick Healy and he is not interested in money. I am not going into why I consider the reading actually to be a good one, as this is not an ideal medium, but I do. Regardless of what one thinks of the reading I don't think aggression is the right response. I am not in any way involved with the reading or recording but if you send me a copy of your proof of purchase I know where the publisher is and I will certainly present it to them with your complaint.

) + ( = a0 said...

Just stumbled across this whilst looking for unabridged ...wake _ fully agree except i might have found a worse example _ a reading of "all strange away" which sounds as if the guy is just learning to read :) main diff is i got it for free and threw it away immediately and if you are really lucky you will never come across it _ as I cant even find it anymore

Unknown said...

Healy is not an actor and is more of an author and Joycean scholar in his own right.

I've listened to this recording and I would agree that the pace of the reading is much too fast; Healy goes at the text 'like a bull at a gate' as we say here in Ireland. Healy's slight lisp also renders his diction a little too sibilant.

Compare and contrast with Joyce's own shellac recording of some of the text (look for it on YouTube) which for me at least was like a key to the text.

All in all, Healy should be commended for a brave, but flawed, undertaking.

Danny Crossley said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks he's done a shite job.

Arthur said...

How Ironic that the book can now be found for FREE. A possible result of all the negative frenzies [4 years later...]
But of CourSe, as you may have suspected, read by Healy...
Stay the course; this is a great source of jib-jab, sure to put one onto sleep. Sweet Dreams...

Braxiatel said...

Couldn't agree with you more. Jim Norton's abridged reading is actually sublime - when you listen to it next to this shite it's like coming up for air!