A typical abridged audio book runs about six hours. That may sound like an eternity, but it's actually an abbreviation: books take a long time to read aloud, so the audio versions rarely squeeze in more than a third or so of the unabridged book. In many cases, if the edit is skillful, you might not even know what's been left out. In the case of Barbara Walters' heavily hyped Audition, however, it's hard not to notice at least one thing that's missing: the sex.
The five-CD, six-hour audio version of Audition, read with breathless earnestness by Walters herself, does a fast-paced jog through the high points of her hefty, 580-page memoir: her travails as a woman trying to break into the largely male preserve of TV news; her strained behind-the-scenes relations with male co-anchors like Frank McGee and Harry Reasoner; her failed marriages and troubled relationship with her daughter Jackie. But when it comes to Walters' love life, the audio book is strangely chaste. None of her romantic relationships outside of her three marriages not even the most publicized revelation from the book, her secret romance with former Massachusetts Senator (and then married) Edward Brooke are anywhere to be found.
Walters' mid-career love life is detailed largely in two chapters in the middle of the book, "Fun and Games in Washington" and "Special Men in My Life." Not all that special, or all that fun, apparently, because the audio book skips the two chapters entirely. Missing is any note of her affair with Brooke, not to mention her flings with future Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, Virginia Senator John Warner and several more.
A consumer might be excused for feeling victimized by the old bait and switch, since promotional material for the book hints broadly at the romantic revelations ("Here, too, are her relationships with men in and out of her marriages and with her friends, co-workers and rivals," reads the Alfred A. Knopf catalog copy); the Brooke affair was the chief headline of virtually every gossip column item on the book; and Walters herself talked about it freely on shows like Oprah.
A call to Random House Audio elicited the usual reminder that abridgements must, of necessity, leave out a lot of material, and a polite passing of the buck to the author. "We had a limited time for the audio, and Barbara was instrumental in choosing what was kept in," said the spokesperson. "She had final approval over everything, and that was the version she wanted to record."
But surely television's most famous interviewer, the woman with a nose for celebrity revelations, the journalist who never saw a secret she couldn't coax out of a guest, would not be a party to leaving the juiciest dish from her book on the cutting-room floor. Or would she? Walters wouldn't comment. Her publicist, Cindi Berger, acknowledged that Walters "approved the abridged version of the book," but just didn't feel the love stuff was important enough to include. "The focus was just to be about her work," Berger explains. "The men in her life was not her priority."
As for the priority of her fans shelling out $29.95 for the audio book well, the expurgated Walters, it seems, will have to do.
With reporting by Andrea Sachs