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Joel C

Good Roadtrip Audiobooks

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it's a highly profitable way to spend time that I can't spend reading. It sure beats listening to the radio (even listening to NPR) and it improves having to do chores around the house.

Yes! Radio is dreadful, although it's such an ingrained habit that I go back to it regularly. Plus, audiobooks only during the daily/weekly commute can turn oppressive if I don't give myself an occasional radio break between discs.

After now having gone through Buckley, Conrad and Keillor (all to be highly recommended), I've enthusiastically acquired:

(4) Plutarch's Lives, Volume 1 (John Dryden's translation) - read by Bernard Mayes

(5) The Conservative Mind by Russell Kirk - read by Phillip Davidson

(6) Freddy and Fredericka by Mark Helprin - read by Robert Ian Mackenzie

(7) The Waste Land & Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot - read by Paul Scofield

and

(8) Islands in the Stream by Ernest Hemingway - read by Bruce Greenwood

I'm glad those earlier choices panned out. I'm currently immersed in The Pale King, just over halfway through it. On my iPod, I'm on book 2 of the Westlake's/Stark's Parker series. I read the first, The Hunter, in paper and ink, am listening to book 2 in the series and have book 5 as a free-download ebook. Mixin' it up, format-wise.

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An invigorating interview of Audible.com's CEO, Donald Katz, over at The American Reader:

Katz: There’s a whole community of actors that has completely woken up to us: we’re a huge employer, and we’re training people at Tisch and Yale and USC and UCLA ... We have big names, too—last year, we had Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Dustin Hoffman, Claire Danes, and others. Kate Winslet did Zola and I sold a gazillion of them and I’m thinking, “Who reads Zola?” People do. [Laughter] Working with these actors, you really see why they get paid so much. Their decisions are so sophisticated. You don’t have to go into a falsetto because it’s a woman’s voice. Some people can keep forty and fifty characters in their head—a dramaturge would say it’s too hard, but our actors can do this stuff.

Reader: I was talking about this with a friend last night, about the experience of going to fiction and poetry readings here in New York City, and in other places we’ve lived. Poetry readings in particular—are you familiar with the phenomenon of the “poet’s voice,” that horrible sing-song monotone poets put on when they read their work in public? It displays such a poverty of interpretation, imagination, craft. But the thing that’s most disturbing about this voice is that you cannot hear the poem through it: as a listener, I often actually lose the meaning of what is being read. I can say, without exaggeration, that because of that voice I sometimes actually will not even know what the poet is saying, let alone to speak of beginning to access its meaning or peculiar force. And this is the case with dead-in-the-water fiction readings, too. One realizes that bad acting is an interpretation as well…just an unfortunate one.

Katz: I think that’s right. Actually, there was a period in audiobook production when the narrators were told not to interpret. They were told that it was the author’s game—“Don’t get involved.” But we said, “We want you to add an interpretive layer.” Nothing over-the-top, of course—just in the way an actor will do Shakespeare, and make it his own. It takes thought to refract the text of a great book through the lens of performance, and over time, we have pushed up the quality and the character of the interpretations ...

Reader: To that end, I’d like to ask you—why audiobooks? Why did you pick that particular lane?

Katz: Exploring audio was interesting to me because my literary mentor was Ralph Ellison, who really woke me up to the powerful influence of oral and vernacular culture on American literature ... And let me tell you something: oral culture predated written culture by a whole lot! And you know, the joy I felt when I used to jog listening to audiobooks—it recalled the almost primordial pleasure of being read to as a child. Honestly, I think authors will begin writing for the oral format again because millions of people like that experience, which does recall those pleasures of being read to. It’s very nice to be read to. The sound of our language is beautiful, and to have it professionally intoned and interpreted—it’s just another interesting intellectual dimension of longer storytelling ...

Reader: Well, there’s also an overlap between the struggling reader and the resistant reader, which is especially important and has everything to do with the deteriorating education system.

Katz: Exactly. There are awful statistics about people who grow up in poverty: their word deficits—there are thousands and thousands and thousands of words that a rich fifth grader knows that a fifth grader from a poor family doesn’t. The US National Institute of Health is now saying that ten to fifteen percent of developing readers have perceptual and linguistic handicaps.

My oldest daughter had language processing challenges when she was a kid, a dyslexia-like learning problem, and she learned to read by taking these big, fat Library of Congress tape machines and a paperback and then synchronizing: listening and reading at the same time. And she eventually compensated and became a fantastic student—an A student. She’s just finished a dual master’s at Bank Street, and she’s a teacher in the city. This is very different from the outcome we were told to expect, and audio played into that in a powerful way. That’s actually one of the genesis stories of Audible—my daughter’s story. I mean—I’ve wanted to invent immersion reading for seventeen years ...

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Great article, Jeremy!

 

 

An invigorating interview of Audible.com's CEO, Donald Katz, over at The American Reader:

Katz: And you know, the joy I felt when I used to jog listening to audiobooks.

Yes! I always take on an apologetic tone when I explain to people that audiobooks, not music, usually accompany me on my runs. Maybe I should stop treating it like an embarrassing habit and start proselytizing about it.

Edited by Christian

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I now travel a bunch for work, and listen to at least two books per month.  Some recent favorites:

- Dennis Lehane novels

- James Lee Burke's Dave Robichaux tales

- Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese - perhaps the most lyrical and affecting of the bunch

- Ender's Game - great use of multiple narrators

- Juliet, Naked, by Nick Hornby - ditto, very enjoyable

- Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen

- Ready, Player One, by Ernest Cline - probably the most fun, read with great gusto by Wil Wheaton

- A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan

- The Cut, by George Pelecanos - a fine, mellifluous reading by Dion Graham - can't wait for the arrival of the sequel next week

Edited by Andrew

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I may have said this already, but my favorite narrator is Tom Stetschulte. He's read a million books, but he's best at Craig McDonald's Hector Lassiter series and Pete Dexter's Spooner. There's a wry wink to his voice that serves humerous material and tall tales well.

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