Susan Johnson’s memoir of a fistula

I read Susan Johnson’s memoir – A Better Woman – when it came out a few years ago.  I like her writing – clear, insightful and keenly felt. The memoir is about her medical adventures when her body ‘let her down’ as it were after childbirth. In any event it’s out as a audio book.  I assumed when I came across it on ABC radio that, to try to squeeze a few extra pennies out of it wouldn’t be available as a podcast. But I was wrong. Perhaps the publishers figured they might get more Christmas sales if they made it available as a podcast. Perhaps Susan Johnson wanted it podcast. In any event, you can get the downloads here. I recommend it strongly.

The other thing I like about it is that it’s read by Susan Johnson, not an actor. One of the things that intrigues me about the world is that acting is never ‘realistic’.  For instance whenever you listen to a documentary and some scene is ‘reconstructed by actors’, you can always tell that they’re actors.  They say their lines like they’re in a play or a movie, yet they’re acting real life. Strange isn’t it? They’re professionals at feigning life, and yet, when their only job is to feign life, not to ‘put on a play’ which is understandably a kind of hyper-real-life, they can’t do it. I’d like to understand why this is so. I’m sure it’s not a reflection on actors that their acting is not fully ‘realistic’, just as a TV presenters speech to camera is not like they speak normally, and just as when we give a speech to a group it’s not the same voice we use to speak to each other. Still I think it is a very telling reflection on actors that they show little sign of doing something completely realistic on the rare occasions when it’s called for.

In any event, I’ve never heard Susan Johnson speak, but I presumed from the moment I heard her that I was listening to the author. Somehow she read the words as if they were hers. No histrionics or carrying on. No schmoozing over the surface of the words to amplify their mellifluous qualities. Just the words and the feeling of their meaning. And perhaps another sign was that her voice is particular and not particularly strong as actors voices often are.

Anyway, I recommend it as a fine listen.

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