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A Series of Passionless Remarks-Audiobook Review
on 1 March 2011
The thought of a fond look at the famous literary characters of British fiction seems to me a great idea. Simple but with endless possibilities.
Faulkes takes the critics approach and from the very first sentence launches into the wordy and `serious' tone of a lecturer.
While rapidly dismissive of the modern approach to fiction there is a lot of truth in his appraisal of the need for the words `based on' to be applied in order for the reader to be able to associate the book with something or someone they know, preferably themselves. There is indeed a sad lack of ability to appreciate anything truly `novel'.
One of the first problems encountered is the authors tendency for pretension. In describing his book, having already mentioned as many of his own novels as he could cram in, `I hope I will be a touch on the brake of the runaway truck of biographical reductionism.' Should be a laugh a paragraph eh?
He then launches into his first character arena, `hero's'. Decrying the misuse of the word he tells us `this is how semantic shifts often occur. Someone uses a word out of context or with a little spin. A reader fails to see the irony or tension, others follow.' Too true. I can't help feeling the words used out of context in the publishers blurb were `engaging, fascinating & compelling'. I wonder if it will create a `semantic shift'?
There is much here to learn from and although Faulkes' opinion is not the final word this work would have us believe it is at least worth a listen.
The problem is that this really is a wordy and pretty dry trip across literary Britain.
Fine if you're studying literary criticism but frankly soulless if you're not.
With so much to draw on surely there was room for some fun here? You are just left with the feeling that the author admires the works here but has he really enjoyed any of them? You know, just read a book for the sheer excitement, the ride the author takes you on or for a love of the characters within? Deconstructing everything is all well and good but doesn't always add to the joy to be had from reading.
I have to say the rather stuffy atmosphere is not helped by the reading of this audio book. I felt the characterisations to be stagey and at times positively awful. So too the many portentous pauses to emphasize a clever sentence. `One of the better novels to emerge from the great war was.. death of hero. Though he could almost have called it death of...wait for it...still pausing to overemphasize the point...THE hero'.
I have to be honest and say that while the book itself is worthy it's not exactly riveting. Often with audio books an okay book is given some life by way of a lively reading. Not here I'm afraid because the points that irritate in the writing, ( detachment and pretentiousness), are simply exacerbated by the reading.
This is a long winded and at times dull attempt at critiquing British literature. It has some interesting things to say but ultimately fails to engage the reader, or in this case, the listener.