Saturday, March 06, 2010

Anathem Simpler Aloud

I've finished listening to Anathem as an audiobook, which I've mentioned twice so far.

After finishing it, I checked out the paper copy from the local library to read the glossary at the end. As I expected, I had not missed out on anything by not having this feature with the audiobook. Neal Stephenson does a great job using made-up words in such a way that the listener/reader gradually makes sense of them without missing anything important.

Listening to Anathem was a pleasure. Reading it would have been less of a pleasure, because Stephenson deliberately spells proper names funky to emphasize how the world of Arbe is not our own yet quite similar.

So I listened to a story about Leo, Arcibald, Orlo, Saman, Lodigir, and Yule Esatar Crede. Only when I looked in the paper copy did I encounter the less melodious names Lio, Arsibalt, Orolo, Sammann, Lodoghir, and Yulassetar Crade.

Similarly, I heard about the sensibly named know-ons, never realizing there was a slightly hidden pun with the made-up word cnoön. And I heard about the Pageant Drums and the Pact, not the panjandrums and the PAQD.

(There were probably many more of these obfuscations that I missed but did not notice as I glanced at the paper copy of the book.)

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