Audio Books and P G Wodehouse

I’m not sure how many of you are aware of this fact, but written fiction normally has a copyright for 50 years.

Now I am a big fiction fan, and I would spend quite unreasonable amounts of my time reading and nothing else if I could. But now, alas, my eyesight is failing, to the point that I can no longer read while walking, cooking or performing my ablutions without straining my eyes.  And so it was suggested to me that I investigate audio books, and yes, they are great, but not, unfortunately, cheap.

So I searched the web for “Free audio books” and, along with the usual pirate material, found that there are many classic works which, having been published more than 50 years ago, are available very cheaply or even free.  The first site I came across when searching was Books Should Be Free.

However, the audio book format is not always as satisfying as you might think. I am a great  fan of P G Wodehouse and consider him to be the greatest English language humourist  of the 20th Century.  I have read and re-read the Jeeves and Wooster stories avidly, and have enjoyed the various TV adaptations, but when you have to listen to his work read by someone else it becomes very tiring quite quickly.  And I really don’t know why this should be.  I love the wit, I enjoy the aridly dry turn of phrase that Wodehouse puts into his characters’ mouths, the subtle interplay of culture and learning combined with earthy good sense and utterly gob-smacking chinless-wonderisms.  I am even prepared to overlook the slight but unmistakable Nazi-sympathy running through much of the material.  But I just can’t get along with anyone else but me doing the reading.

I can listen to anything by Bill Bryson read by the author or by a variety of other readers with pleasure.  I can listen to non-fiction read by pretty much anyone, but Wodehouse needs to be read from the page.  If anyone can offer any reason why this should be I would be grateful to know.

Until then, I shall be mostly listening to “The Golden Bough” by James Frazer (1854-1941).

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4 thoughts on “Audio Books and P G Wodehouse

  1. I can’t answer your question, I’m afraid (although I’m sure Stephen Fry would be a great narrator for Wodehouse). I can offer a suggestion, though. Most libraries have a good selection of audio books available for loan for a relatively small fee.

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  3. Interesting. I too love Wodehouse (I wonder how anybody could do otherwise) but adore hearing Jonathan Cecil read the great man’s work to me. As an avid consumer of audio books I’ve come to realise that the single most crucial factor is the actor performing the work. My favourite author is Patrick O’Brian and his books have been read by a variety of people and all except one has failed entirely to do justice to the work. When Patrick Tull reads O’Brian’s tales they spring to life. In fact I prefer to have him read them to me rather than read them myself. It is more than just his voice it is the fact that he understands the pace, the humour and above all the characters.
    My dogs love when I find a good audio book because rain or shine, dark or light they know they will get lots of walks – I just can’t wait to get outside and lose myself in the story. Like you I can no longer read while walking down the road. Age has its price to pay.

    • I know what you mean. There are one or to voice talent artists (I can’t just call them readers) who make listening to an audio book more like listening to a play, with many characters, all voiced differently, subtly reflecting mood and personality that would normally take a cast, a full production budget and a director.

      I love Peter Kenny for his readings of Iain (M) Banks’ work. The best excuse for a long walk in the rain since they put the pub in the next village.

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