Audiobook is not always the best way to experience a book. Some books aren't cut out for that kind of word-for-word read, some voice actors make you want to scream. And it's a lot lot lot slower than I can read, and I can't really pay attention to it unless I'm in a car. So I guess if they ever perfect teleportation, audiobooks and I will part ways. Anyway, I found the audiobook of DH much more enjoyable than my first read-through of it, but it's of course difficult to separate what of that was the audiobook experience versus the second go-through experience.
It's easier to see how that first four-hour read of DH was affected by my expectations. The first time through I was too wrapped up in the what will happen, too focused on what is happening to enjoy the actual prose--which is Rowling's real gift. Critics say of her works, "It's not genius lit, but it's a helluva good story," without ever defining--maybe they don't know?--what they mean by that. I hear people praise her characters, her storytelling--what is all that? Characters and story are still just words on a page, kidlets. Rowling does words on a page very, very well. Here, this is the sentence that follows the moment Voldemort is really and truly dead:
"One shivering second of silence, the shock of the moment suspended..." --you guys missed all that lovely alliteration the first time through, didn't you? I certainly did. That's freakin' gorgeous. Those words actually hold their breath in all those hissed little esses.
You can't notice mere prose when you're focused on who's gonna die and will I get to see enough of the characters I like. Similar to my first experience of the film of The Fellowship of the Ring, all I could do was watch to see how it was executed, and only after it was done could I say, "Oh! Let's do that again, so I can actually try to enjoy it this time!"
So, somewhere combined in the second go-through and the slow narrative experience of the audiobook, there's a more interesting book in there for me. The pacing did not jar nearly so greatly as it had the first time; the Great Camping Trip did not have me screaming to get on with it. Plot twists were better explained, better wrapped-up. (All those "When was that? I don't even remember that," conversations I had just post-book received their "Ohhh, THAT" counterparts at last.) Goofy bits (the ministry mission to get the locket, Harry's facial disfiguration when they're caught by Greyback, Hermione's impersonation of Bellatrix and the raid on Gringotts) still felt goofy but not quite so humiliating. The rush of pensieve scenes concerning Snape did not feel nearly so much like an info dump. Plus, I cried this time through, multiple places. The first was Dudley's plaintive, "But where's he going to go?" I cried for Kreacher not being able to tell anyone that Regulus was not merely missing but dead because he'd been commanded not to (plus I'm no longer as upset over The Reformation of Kreacher because he doesn't, really--Harry is tolerant now that Kreacher isn't hostile to him any longer and is trying to make up for his past behavior, but he's still never fond of the little shit)--I think I was even crying for Mrs. Black, a little, during that, the idea of her awful bewilderment over where Regulus might have got to. I choked up during Snape's memories at the line, "...something was making a terrible sound, like a wounded animal." And I actually had to turn the CD player off for a bit and sob, mascara running down my face and not caring what other drivers thought of me, when Harry, knowing he has to go to his own death, hears the injured girl in Hogwarts crying to go home, and thinks, "He wanted to be stopped, to be dragged back, to be sent back home." God, that hit me like bricks--how many times have I been in a dreadful, dreadful situation and been reduced to a child's whimper of, "I want to go home," as if the concept of going home would make everything not so?
And there's a thing an audiobook does--it removes the tricks that your eyes play when you read. When I read, I take in a paragraph at once with my eyes; I can't ignore the other words in the paragraph. The sentence directly before that one about Harry wanting to be sent back home is, "He wanted to shout out to the night, he wanted Ginny to know that he was there..." And there's no way that I can see that entire paragraph and not see the word Ginny in there, leaving me groaning, Oh, gag me, no more about Ginny, please. One word can poison the whole paragraph for me, and the power of the rest of the prose is lost. Not so with an audiobook, where the words are not visible, where they're gone as soon as they're said aloud, where you are sense-deprived of what your sight could have done to you. I could never have wept over those words while reading the text visually because of that "see the whole paragraph" handicap.
Some dissatisfactions remain. The concept of the Deathly Hallows still feels minor, coming as late as it does in the book and feeling more like a sidebar rather than something that earn's the book's title. Ariana Dumbledore is a terrible bit of late-insertion who-cares backstory. The delay in going to Godric's Hollow reeks of retconning, given what Harry says at the end of HBP. I also would have liked to have had more of a denouement rather than having an epilogue try to substitute for the lack of one. And Harry/Ginny is still the dullest romance ever.
As a four-hour read, Deathly Hallows invited a lot of "Wha?" from me. As a 21-hour audio experience, it's better. (Which, significantly, wasn't my experience after doing the same first-read-then-listen thing with Half-Blood Prince. I was still pissed at it for ending when it did.)
(crossposted to insanejournal)