Monday, January 10, 2011

Listen to Me - Henrietta Lacks and the Virgin Blue

Since my commute is what seems like a thousand hours long, I thought I'd share what I'm reading/listening to with you. Because I'm a giver.


It's a twofer!

The last time I was at the library, I had an audiobook on hold, which is handy, because sometimes you want to listen to fiction, sometimes non-fiction and sometimes you just need to jam out to Kanye West [she IS a gold digger!  It's true!].

I don't THINK Kanye was talking about Oprah, but you never can tell with him.
 Where was I?


I had an audiobook on hold - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which I had been dying to read, but knew I wouldn't get to, what with the holidays and actually having to read this month's book club book [Remains of the Day - I like the movie better] because I picked it and am hosting the gathering and so I probably should read it, right?  So I got the audiobook of that, and I also picked up Tracy Chevalier's The Virgin Blue, because I liked Girl with The Pearl Earring, and as I mentioned, I need variety in my audiobook world.

While the books are wildly different, they shared a uniformity in that listening to them SUCKED. ASS.

Oh, my god.  It was horrible.

Henrietta Lacks was so bad I couldn't get 1/2 way through the first disc.  It has two readers, Cassandra Campbell and Bahni Turpin, neither of which are able to hold my attention in a positive way.  I wanted to smack Campbell, particularly when she attempted any type of southern accent - it was like listening to Joey on Friends do his Italian accent:

JOEY: No! No, no you can't quit! You're the best agent I ever had! Look Pheebs, rejection is part being an actor, you can't take it personally.
PHOEBE: Not personal, really, well they said that they never met an Italian actor with a worse Italian accent.
JOEY: They actually said that?

Heehee.  Remember when Joey pretended to be 19? "What's up with your whack PlayStation playing?"
Yeah.  That bad.

All I kept thinking when I heard Turpin as Lacks' daughter was, "She's not so bad.  Why wouldn't they have HER do the whole thing?" so I couldn't even focus on what she was saying.

I may check the book out and try and read it.  I'll have to wait until time does its trick and erases this bitter, stinky memory from my brain.

Worse by a THOUSAND times was The Virgin Blue

How could it be that much worse, you wonder?  Allow me to explain - not only were the readers a fucking mess, the book itself? SO TERRIBLE.  It honestly made me question whether or not I actually liked Girl with a Pearl Earring, or if was perhaps hopped up on goofballs and just thought I enjoyed it.  I'm too afraid to find out.  I don't want to waste anymore time on this mess.

The readers were - well, one sounded like a cut-rate Julie Andrews [don't even try and listen, you know who, or your crush on her will evaporate] and she told the story of Isabelle, the 15th century Frenchwoman fleeing religious persecution as a . . . I don't know, either a Protestant or Catholic.  I was so disinterested, I couldn't keep it straight.  She was married to a boor and they called her La Russe because of her red hair which was blah blah blah something and then there was a color blue which was about the Virgin Mary which could have been engaging, particularly since I minored in art history [because I am nothing if not prepared for a life of cocktail parties and small talk], but which was stripped of any interest by the tedium of the story.
I don't know.  I mean I guess this blue is cool.  I'm more a fan of purple, myself.
And the other reader . . . oh, god, the other reader.

You know Terri Gross on NPR?  That smug, self-satisfied throaty-laughing sycophant who hosts Fresh Air and makes you wonder why you're listening to NPR instead of, say, Chuck and Bob's Big Ball Fest in the Morning because you'd be equally irritated?

That's what she sounded like. 

And her character irritated me in every possible way. 

A whiny American living in a tiny town in France who is INSULTED! and SURPRISED! and TAKEN ABACK! that the tiny village's inhabitants would wonder about her and discuss her and oh, yeah, she HAD AN AFFAIR and PSORIASIS and ONLY WORE LINEN and ugh.  She was that awful, awful person you avoid at all costs when you see her across the library or store or park.  I'm not sure if that was Chevalier's intent, but it was so bad that I could not even finish it.  I was on disc 8 of 9 and just said, "You know what?  I don't care what happens to either of these people.  They are that boring."

So I can't give you a complete review of either book, since I didn't technically finish either book.  I can state, unequivocally, that you would be better off listening to static.  It would be less tiresome.


  1. seriously - they had the readers for "henrietta lacks" actually ACTING OUT THE DIALECT? GAAH. that's awful.

    it's a shame, too, because the idea of that book is one of the more fascinating concepts i've heard of. i haven't gotten around to reading it myself, but i studied similar cases to hers in property class in law school. i think i'll just wait and read the dead-tree version...

  2. Yikes--that sounds painfully bad.

    Agree with magnolia. I've heard of it being a really interesting case so my first reaction was, "Ooh, cool!" Guess not...

  3. I am so totally spoiled by Jim Dale reading Harry Potter that audiobooks are no longer even on my radar. Kindle has a read aloud feature, that's actually acceptable!

  4. Ahhhh! Thank you for perfectly describing Terry Gross. I always feel like I should like her but end up wanting to b!itch slap her when I listen to Fresh Air.


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