austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

It's a mystery to me, this mutiny at sea

I can now successfully identify at least one genuine, unmistakable flaw in the audio book recording of The Big Sleep as read by Elliot Gould: a good part of Raymond Chandler's book features Philip Marlowe's internal monologues interrupted with his dialogue. While the difference between these is invariably clear in text, it requires some cleverness on the part of the audio book reader to make clear which is which, particularly if the dialogue is going snappily fast and the usual ``I said'' segments are omitted for speed. It's clear after a short while whether something was meant to be internal or external, but I strongly prefer un-ambiguous stories. I'll accept a bit of ambiguity if it's essential to plot logic or the need for suspense in building a scene, but I don't like it as a regular element of the story.

What's got me slightly mystified now is that I didn't have a similar problem in the audio book version of Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union, quite deliberately written (in part) as a Chandler pastiche, which has a similar tight focus on the detective protagonist. That's not a first-person story but it is tight third, so that it would seem to be susceptible to the same menaces in audio form. That may be just that they got a better book-reader for this one: while Elliot Gould's a talented comic actor I don't believe he had much experience in purely voice acting, which has a subtly different idiom.

It's possible that Chabon was more careful in providing the various narrative tags separating thoughts from dialogue, although I'd be a bit surprised if convenience for audio book readers was a priority in his writing the book, and it seems like quite a stroke of luck if he happened to write that way. Possibly I was more caught up in figuring out the pieces of the fascinating alternate history worked up for it, but the curiosity of late-1930s Los Angeles as glimpsed in a narrative that isn't about the Coming Portents of World War or the Lingering Effects of the Great Depression are at least as inherently interesting to my sort of mind.

Trivia: Paul Revere's engraving of the Boston Massacre was copied without permission from a picture done by Henry Pelham, half-brother of artist John Singleton Copley. Source: Redcoats and Rebels: The American Revolution Through British Eyes, Christopher Hibbert.

Currently Reading: And Four To Go, Rex Stout.

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