Thursday, July 26, 2007

Hearing Words

As a young child, my mother the consummate reader, would gather the four of us around and read Golden Books and Aesop's Fables to us and whatever else we begged her for. There was a particular luxury in not only hearing great stories, but having someone else do the reading.
Recently, both of the public libraries I have accounts with began participating in Overdrive, a nationwide program of free downloadable audio books. Free, that is to patrons, but libraries pay a fee to participate. With my .mp3 player in hand, I began to rediscover the joy of having books read to me. What brings me the biggest thrill is that I am able to listen to wonderful stories while doing ordinary tasks like cleaning, laundry, yard work and commuting to and from work. The only time I can't listen and absorb audiobooks is when I'm reading anything else.
I have to admit I'm becoming "narrator-sensitive," especially if the book is set anywhere in New England. I cringed while listening to Anita Shreve's Light on Snow when the narrator pronounced "Concord" like the plane with an "e" instead of its regional "Concahd."
The other curiosity I've discovered is that listening to the book read to me is a very different experience than holding it in my hands. The words reverberate dead center in my brain and seem to linger longer than when I'm reading in hand.
I'm curious if anyone has had their work produced on audiobook and what their experience has been? Is this a marketing venue worth pursuing? Does the author have any say in the narrator?
- Felicia Donovan


Joe Moore said...

Nice post, Felicia. I love audio books. Back when I had my day job and commuted 45 minutes to and from work, I could listen to an abridged novel in a week. I thought it was a relaxing use of my time in the car and kept me from getting "white knuckled fever" which is so contagious in South Florida traffic.

Our first book, THE GRAIL CONSPIRACY has been produced as a 9-CD audio book. Only one problem: It's in German. Hopefully, someone is flying down the autobahn right now listening to our story. Wonder what they call white knuckled fever at 120 MPH?

Nina Wright said...

I've been a fan of unabridged recorded books for 20 years and have listened to some books several times. It is an extraordinary pleasure to be read to, one I consider almost primal. Even today when I think of certain books I've listened to, I can instantly recall what I was doing (or where I was driving) when I heard the story.

You're right, Felicia, the narrator is almost as important as the writer, a fact I may especially appreciate because I've worked as an actor and voice-over artist, too. IMHO, most writers, even the Big Ones, should not record their own work. Ken Follett is a rare exception, and I hope to be, too. For many years, I recorded books on tape for the blind and also had my own local radio show in which I read fiction every week. I've also narrated a lot of big commercial projects, which are their own kind of fun....

Joanna Campbell Slan said...


I just know that I really enjoy books on tape when the book is set in another country. That way I can hear the proper pronunciation of the foreign (to me) words.

Felicia Donovan said...

Joe, too funny. "...white knuckled fever at 120 MPH?" I know a few German words from my childhood but shall refrain...

Nina, how interesting that you have the voice-over background and yes, it is a luxury to be read to. I just recently listened to PAWLEY'S ISLAND written and read by Dorothea Benton Frank. After having listened to numerous narrated stories, it was a very different experience to hear an author read their own work, but I loved her low-country accent. One thing that stood out, though, was that she did not distinguish much between the voices of the characters. I suppose that's where the "actor" comes into play.

Joanna, I've just started listening to Willa Cather's MY ANTONIA, much of which is centered around Slavic characters. Talk about a tough narration. I'm not only learning a few Slavic phrases, but how to pronounce English words with a Slavic accent. I learned that "Antonia" was pronounced "AntonIA" with the accent on the last syllable. These are the kinds of interesting add-ons we get from hearing the story read to us.