I Read Listened To, Watched That

(Actually posted by Kara)This holiday my husband, Tucker (our 90-lb. lab) and I drove 14 hours (in a two-door Honda Civic) from Cincinnati to Boston to celebrate Christmas with my in-laws. On the way there and back we listened to the unabridged audio version of Ian McEwan’s Atonement, narrated by Jill Tanner. We loved it.

Shortlisted for numerous awards, including the 2001 Booker Prize for Fiction and the 2001 Whitbread Book Award for Novel, it won the 2002 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and was raved about in countless reviews.

Next week I plan to see the movie. I can’t wait. For all the flack movies-made-from-books seem to get, this one has received good press. In Ann Hornaday’s December 7, 2007 The Washington Post review, she writes:

“For admirers of Ian McEwan’s shattering 2002 novel Atonement, the prospect of adapting such a masterful piece of diamantine prose into a big-screen spectacle bespeaks temerity bordering on blasphemy. The fiercest of McEwan’s protectors may stand down. In the almost spookily capable hands of 34-year-old director Joe Wright, the film version of ‘Atonement’ has achieved that to which every literary adaptation should aspire.”

She ends the review with:

“How fitting, somehow, that a novel so devoted to the precision and passionate love of language be captured in a film that is simply too exquisite for words.”

Visit Rotten Tomatoes for similar reviews.

So I loved the audiobook. I’m guessing I’m going to love the movie. But as a writer, is it my duty to read the book, too? I’m sure I’ll find the experience enjoyable, but my time is limited. But am I missing something by not digesting the words page-by-page? Or, perhaps, have I gained something by hearing them read and seeing them come alive on screen?

Personally, there are some forms of writing I’d almost rather hear than read, such as poetry. But novels, well, I’m not so sure. So I’d love to hear what you think. Do you still read the book even if you’ve seen the movie and/or listened to the audiobook? Why or why not?

Take care,
Kara Gebhart Uhl
Managing Editor

P.S.: Maria returns from her well-deserved vacation next week, so be sure to check back soon!

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8 thoughts on “I Read Listened To, Watched That

  1. Jennifer

    When I lived in the southern States, on a long road trip I loved stopping at The Cracker Barrel for a meal. This restaurant chain has wonderful gift shops you can browse through while waiting for your food. It also has a book-on-tape rental deal that you can rent and drop off at any of their highway restaurants. On one trip I rented a John Grisham b.o.t. I was so engrossed in the story, that when I looked at my directions and they didn’t make sense, I phoned my hostess. She told me that I had missed my turnoff by twenty miles!

  2. Mary

    I have always loved books and used to drag them around with me everywhere I went. I started listening to audio books just about 10 years ago, when I started a job that had a long commute and no car pool or public transit option. Reading a book while driving did not seem to be a viable option for me. In fact, I found that there are many things that you have to do every day that you cannot or should not do while reading. But, you can do many of those things while listening to a book. Now audio books are my constant companion. I nearly always have at least one book on my MP3 player in my purse or pocket. Before I started listening to audiobooks, I was always behind in my reading list. Now I have to work to keep my queue filled.

    I do not listen to abridged audiobooks. They are nearly always a disappointment – and the early audiobook abridgement work must have been done by someone who hated books.

    I’ve found that I sometimes select an audiobook because of the reader. Jim Dale, who read the Harry Potter series, is such a good story teller that he can make an oatmeal recipe sound interesting.

    Another interesting note, I married a non-reader. He’s perfectly capable of reading, but never cared for the inactivity of it. But he has found that he likes audio books. While he will never love stories and literature as I do, I can now share my favorites with him.

  3. Lori

    Audiobooks are a tough call sometimes. I’ve heard two of them so far and loved them both (Garrison Keillor’s Pontoon and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love). However, I’ve heard some bad samples, too. I loved being able to hear these books in the authors’ voiees because they know the exact inflection and tone that was meant, which adds just one more layer onto the story.

    Now you’ve made me want to read Atonement. :)

  4. :Donna

    Well, I’ve not personally ever listened to a book, but know a lot of people who have, namely: the Harry Potter series. They all love the audio books and often listen to them in the car with family, either on long trips or driving about town. I haven’t done it for several reasons: the expense I can’t afford, the fear of getting so absorbed in the book, I’d be too distracted to drive properly, and most of the time I listen to music in the car (rarely at home).

    I do know that I love the feel of a book in my hand and the action of actually reading the words, truly being a logophile, and unless I know I would enjoy the style of the person reading the book to me, I’m not sure if it would diminish or enhance the story.

    I, too, prefer reading the book before seeing the movie, though I’ve done both. If I see the movie first, then the characters and scenery have already become images in my mind before I read the story. If I read the book before the movie, I understand the story so much better and often find myself irritated at the changes made in the adaptation, though occasionally impressed at improvements at times.
    : Donna

  5. Jenny R

    I enjoy watching movies based on books I like, but I have to read the book first. I’ve never tried listening to a book on tape before, but I’d consider it, especially on a long trip like yours. I can’t wait to see The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which was an excellent book and (like Atonement) is getting great movie reviews too.

  6. Wayne Shannon

    Hey Gena, Birian, Kara (whoever), I have never LISTENED to a book in my life. I’m one of those stone-age men who thinks that reading has much to do with the flicker of eyeballs. You’ve just changed that and convinced me otherwise. I’m off to Amazon right now to see what’s up for download! (God, I hope you’re right.) I’ll keep you posted.

  7. Gena

    When I hear of a movie coming out, based upon a book I haven’t yet read, and if it seems like something I’d like to see, I’ll usually get the book and read it first. The only time I didn’t do that was for The Silence of the Lambs. I read the book after seeing the movie, and in that case, seeing the movie first, I believe, enhanced the book for me, particularly the visualization of Hannibal Lecter, and, again, the book was even better than the great movie. I’ve only attempted one audio-book; listened to it while I walked for exercise, and didn’t really enjoy it — the book, not the exercise. But maybe I wouldn’t have enjoyed reading the book either, but after listening to it, I had no desire to read it.

  8. Robbie Taylor

    Since subscribing to Audible a couple of years ago, I listen to books fanatically. But, occasionally, they only have the abridged version of a book and I find that I want more, and that’s when I seek out the printed version and read it.

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