Sunday, December 06, 2009

Listening to Vanity Fair


I'm on disc 9 of 23 of Wanda McCaddon's incredible reading of William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair.

I read it back in an Austen-to-Dickens class in college, and raced through it, wrote on okay paper on it, checked it off as read, and promptly forgot about it, which is a shame because it really is a very enjoyable novel. Partly I think that I am now, being completely middle-aged, able to accept and even like a novel that boasts that it is without a hero, and partly Wanda McCaddon's reading is perfect. Vanity Fair's narrator can be irritating on paper--the condescending coyness and satiric edge makes the novel seem more dated than either Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre, both of which were published in the same year as Vanity Fair--but McCaddon softens the edges and infuses the condescension with a touch of sympathy, making it more appealing...at least that's my current theory. We'll see how I feel after I've listened to the other 14 CDs!

I did watch the Reese Witherspoon as Becky Sharp movie on a long flight a few years ago, but I'm afraid that Reese is just not living up to my current image of Becky, whom I admire in the same way I admire Scarlett O'Hara. Glad she's not in my family, but I admire her none the less, at least at this stage of the story, which is not even the half-way mark.

Let me know if you can recommend any adaptations of Vanity Fair, as I'll be wanting to watch one sometime in 2010.

One parting thought, I've never read A Pilgrim's Progress, and I really should as virtually all of my favorite writers apparently read it regularly, but while thinking about the metaphorical "Vanity Fair" that Thackeray's characters inhabit I found myself thinking about A Pilgrim's Progress. And lo, when I Googled I discovered that Thackeray wrote Vanity Fair with A Pilgrim's Progress in mind. I suppose I knew that, after all I studied the book in college. That must have been part of a lecture on the book! I wonder whether Wanda McCaddon has recorded A Pilgrim's Progress.

7 comments:

  1. Once I got used to, I loved the narrative voice of Vanity Fair, and can see it would make a good audiobook. I wasn't sold on Reese's Becky either, Natasha Little in the 1998 BBC adaption is much better.

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  2. I prefer reading books to listening to audiobooks unless I can do both simultaneously. Though I had to study about Vanity Fair, I've never dared start reading it.I must do it sooner or later but ... let's see. 2010 maybe the right time for Becky Sharp!

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  3. I love Vanity Fair and agree with Sarah - Natasha Little was an excellent Becky Sharp, much better than Witherspoon. I love the comparison to Scarlett O'Hara - both are indomitable woman who are absolutely enthralling but I am heartily glad that I know no real life versions of these ladies. I need a good audio book for the 10 hour drive (each way) to my in-laws for the holidays. Thanks for the recommendation!

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  4. Definitely a book without a hero! I thought the book dragged on a bit but I was so glad that things didn't end happily-ever-after for Becky.

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  5. I hate to admit it, but I rather like Reese Witherspoon -- but in my defense, I hadn't seen the earlier version nor read the book. I did read the book this year and I did find it dragged -- Thackeray got rather preachy and did ramble on sometimes. Plus I really wanted to give Amelia a good smack. I'm sure I would have preferred this audio version, it sounds excellent. And I'll have to track down the 1998 film adaptation, it sounds good.

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  6. I read Vanity Fair a while back and would like to read it again at some point -- and "rereading" it on audio is a great idea. I should reread more classics that way. I'll have to keep my eye out for this particular reader.

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  7. I'll definitely be looking for the 1998 version with Natasha Little.

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