The interweb was all atwitter yesterday about an “article,” (and I use the term loosely) that denigrated Book Expo, publishers, the state of literature, and book bloggers in an impressive feat of unfounded ridiculousness. It took 24 hours for my comment to make it through moderation, and then…
I deliberated as to whether or not to respond to Daniela Hurezanu’s article. It really doesn’t deserve the dignity of a response; but I couldn’t resist. I commented. Or at least I tried to. Unfortunately the site was “unable to receive my comment at this time” and it just returns me to the article with a new validation question. Maybe the site’s servers aren’t scalable/can’t handle the influx of responses. Maybe they’ve closed the thread already. Whatever. I am disinclined to sit around all day and wait for their Comments System to come back up. So, for my followers, here are my brief comments:
A Response to Daniela Hurezanu’s Article
Clearly, you were not at the Book Blogger Convention. Admittedly, your article does not claim that you had attended; but to comment on the nature of the Convention, its participants and practice intimates that you were at least familiar with it. If you were though, there is no way you could have written the last paragraph of your piece. Before you write about a topic, you should do your homework. Generalizations, especially ill-informed ones, deny your credibility as a writer.
Some Helpful Hints: Look up the term “Mommy Blogger” and use the term in a sentence correctly; Interview publishers, authors, bloggers and blog readers to determine why blogging is an efficacious promotional factor; Investigate the roles that promotional bloggers have in expanding the reach beyond the already converted.
Hmm, maybe I should write the article. I’m more qualified than Ms Hurezanu. I was actually there.
Learning about great audiobook titles is part of my job! Every month, I familiarize myself with the Blackstone Audio’s catalogs and assign titles to listener advisory services (i.e. reviewers.) Some LASs have very general qualifications while others, like bloggers, have very specific tastes. In this way, I often come across titles that I think I might be interested in for myself! For instance, I’m looking at an upcoming catalog right now and there’s a T.C. McCarthy novel I’m curious about: Germline, The first in the Subterrene War Trilogy. Adding that to my TBL-Q now…
But even though it’s easy to pick and choose from Blackstone’s offerings, I do review titles from all audiobook publishers! Though it would be easy to check the Upcoming Releases pages of other audiobook companies, I find most of my recommendations from twitter conversations. Occasionally, someone will leave a recommendation on my blog too. I always love it when someone happens to recommend back to me a Blackstone Audio title! Twitter and blog recommendations have led me to I am Legend (by Richard Matheson; narrated by Robertson Dean) and The Haunting of Hill House (by Shirley Jackson; narrated by Bernadette Dunne,) titles I might have well have overlooked despite having been produced by Blackstone Audio by virtue of the fact that Blackstone produces a lot of audiobooks and, I can’t listen to them all!
I would like to give a special shout out to Beth Harper at Harper Audio. Every month Harper Audio sends out an e-mail with audiobooks available for review. I look forward to these e-mails. They aren’t aggressive or demanding. They simply showcase Harper Audio’s offerings and let me know they are available for review. I love this! In fact, I’m just about to wrap up Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? (by Steven Tyler and David Dalton; narrated by Jeremy Davidson) which I requested from Harper Audio and,will be posting a review next week :-)
I’m also involved in a couple of challenges every year and the qualifications for each usually involve me searching out titles per the requirements of the challenge, not by audiobook publisher, new releases or even recommendations. Recently, I was trying to find a book set in Delaware, which led me to West of Rehoboth (by Alexs D. Pate; narrated by Dion Graham) Because it is an older title, it would have likely escaped my notice had I not been looking for something that specific.
Years ago, I went to visit an actress friend of mine. All over her apartment, there were little sticky notes with the lines she was trying to memorize for a play. The Post-It notes were stuck on door jambs, mirrors, the refrigerator… I asked her what was up and she replied that it was a technique for learning her part. As she encountered the notes during the day, she would recite the lines and associate the lines with the object. When she needed to recall her lines, she would recall the object. She told me that it was an old technique, perhaps even ancient, dating back to the time when couriers had to memorize whole speeches verbatim.I was never able to verify this until fairly recently when I came across a New York Times Review (written by Melanie Thernstrom) of The Memory Palace (by Mira Bartok):
… a memory palace. The idea, she explains, derives from the sixth-century B.C. Greek poet Simonides, who was attending a party at a palace and stepped outside just before the building collapsed. Because he could recall where all the other guests had been standing, Simonides alone could identify the mangled bodies. Inspired by this tale, a 16th-century Jesuit priest recommended a mental technique by which scholars could build an imaginary palace to keep their memories safe, creating a visual image for everything they wanted to recall and creating a particular place for the image inside the mental palace.
This idea that people can create spatial relationships in their mind to arrange or store information is intriguing because it reflects how people may actually process information, i.e their ability to read, to listen, to watch TV, watch movies, watch plays, look at computer screens and e-readers… The many different ways to convey information each have a unique way into the brain and actually have an impact on how the brain receives successive bits of information. So, the more you watch TV, the harder it is to take up reading. And hard-core readers have very little patience for watching TV. And more to the point, readers often don’t have listening skillz.
For people who have not yet developed listening skillz, for those who are new to audiobooks, I would start with basic linear narratives, something straight-forward and entertaining… Children’s stories! Yep! You will find excellent performances by seasoned narrators in the Children’s and YA genres (e.g. J.K. Rowling’s The Harry Potter series as narrated by Jim Dale or, in the UK Stephen Frye or; L.A. Meyers’ Bloody Jack Series as narrated by Katherine Kellgren.)
You’ll develop an ear for what you like (and what you don’t) in terms of genres and narrators and one day, sooner or later, the penny drops and you experience the audiobook that busts the text wide open! For me, that was To Kill a Mockingbird (by Harper Lee; narrated by Sissy Spacek.) I had read the book in high school and I will admit, that I didn’t care for it that much. Then, a few years ago, I listened to the audiobook and… Wow! I totally “got it!” I could see the brilliance of the writing, its structure, its word-smithing, its import!
You know you’re hooked when you sit in your driveway or in the parking lot, probably running late; but hanging on every word that comes from the player! You might be all wracked up with tension, or crying, or laughing… The thing is, you’re involved and loving it!
I’m currently listening to Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? (the memoir from the lead singer of Aerosmith, Steven Tyler and David Dalton; narrated by Jeremy Davidson.) The ghostwriting and the narrator temper the free-form/stream-of-consciousness scat of Steven Tyler; but the spirit of the book, of the singer, come through. Not for the prudish, the memoir covers the drugs, sex and, alcohol abuses of a hard core rock ‘n’ roll band as well as some of the personal triumphs. There are really no surprises for those who have been along for the ride these past four decades and yet, there is a certain fascination in hearing this unapologetic recounting of the excesses.
Would it have been better had Steven Tyler narrated? I would have thought the audiobook publishers would have wanted Steven Tyler to narrate; but then I thought again! Trying to tie him to a script, even if it was his own, would have been impossible! His style is so free-form and ad lib, I don’t think he could have delivered the book verbatim! On the other hand, I heard that the book was actually transcribed from interview tapes, David Dalton doing some minor organization of the text. I would have personally paid to listen to the original transcript tapes, regardless of the quality! That said, Jeremy Davidson does an admirable job of trying to get out of his own way. He has a distinctive, non-Tyler voice and yet, it’s Steven Tyler’s voice we really hear.
Current favorite audiobook:
These are the titles, in alphabetical order, that have made my personal Pantheon of All-Time Great Audiobooks:
1984 (by George Orwell; narrated by Simon Prebble)
The Dead Trilogy (by Adrian McKinty; narrated by Gerard Doyle)
A Happy Marriage (by Rafael Yglesias; narrated by Grover Gardner)
In Cold Blood (by Truman Capote; narrated by Scott Brick)
Life of Pi (by Yaan Martel; narrated by Jeff Woodman)
Matterhorn (by Karl Marlantes; narrated by Bronson Pinchot)
The Millennium Trilogy (by Stieg Larsson; narrated by Simon Vance)
Shantaram (by Gregory David Roberts; narrated by Humphrey Bower)
The Thirteenth Tale (by Diane Setterfeld; narrated by Bianca Amato and Jill Tanner)
To Kill a Mockingbird (by Harper Lee; narrated by Sissy Spacek)
Genre you most often choose to listen to:
My tastes are extremely eclectic; but in looking over my lists of audiobooks that I’ve listened to, many are mysteries. This, by virtue of the fact that I belong to a Yahoo! group called, Sounds Like a Mystery (SLAM.) It’s a group dedicated to listening to mysteries in the audiobook format. I’m a big believer in genre-busting though so this year I’ve making a point of searching out titles that aren’t usually represented in my listening experience: Westerns (e.g. True Grit by Charles Portis; narrated by Donna Tarrt,) non-fiction (Columbine by Dave Cullen; narrated by Don Leslie,) Autobiography/Memoir (Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? by Steven Tyler and David Dalton; narrated by Jeremy Davidson)… I also deliberately tried a couple of titles that were previously taboo to me, books that featured a child killer. The idea was that I needed to stop playing it safe in my listening selections. If I’m always going to play it safe, I might as well just stick to the mass market paperbacks at my local supermarket. I like to think that I’m capable of forging ahead through my prejudices.To that end I listened to A Quiet Belief in Angels (by R.J. Ellory; narrated by Mark Bramhall) and I have to be honest, it about did me in!
If given the choice, you will always choose audio/print when:
If I start a series in audio, I like to continue the series in audio (and the same with print.) If the narrator changes mid-series, I’m more likely to choose to go to print, just to keep the same voice in my head. At other times, print wins out over audio if it’s a matter of time as I read faster than I listen.
Audiobook Week: Sound Effects and Multiple Narrators
Sound effects and multiple narrators in dialogue definitely have their place: in audio drama. In an audio drama, the story is presented in play form. There is dialogue and foley and, all this meets the listeners expectations. Some great examples are The Importance of Being Ernest (by Oscar Wilde; performed by a full cast starring James Marsters,) The Maltese Falcon (by Dashiell Hammett; performed by a full cast starring Michael Madsen) or Don Pendleton’s Mack Bolan series as produced by Graphic Audio. BUT, in a non-dramatized audiobook, sound effects and dialogue between narrators are distracting. Once absolutely verboten in straight narration, the practice of adding sound effects seems to be creeping in. In Beat the Reaper (by Josh Bazell; narrated by Robert Petkoff,) the narrator’s performance is spoiled by elevator music, the sound of lapping water and, even an echo effect for certain characters’ lines. In The Woods (by Harlan Coben; narrated by Scott Brick) certain lines are enhanced to make them sound like a voice on the other end of a telephone line. Clever, but again, distracting. I worked on a title which involved dialogue between narrators and against my advice, the narrators’ lines were recorded separately and mixed in post. I’m not sure of the effect; but my objection was that the natural give-and-take dynamiic of people in a conversation would be absent. If the book has multiple points-of-view in it, then multiple narrators are acceptable, though I know of some purists who object to even that! Character delineation is facilitated more effciently by casting multiple narrators for multiple POVs and actually serves the book better. And, finally, a little note about music: Used sparingly and appropriately at the beginning and the end of an audiobook, it’s great! But when the music goes on too long, undercuts the narrator’s voice, used interstitially between chapters… it’s annoying. Ironically, when I do want the music, it’s cost prohibitive to include it! The rights to even a snippet of music are expensive and yet I can’t help but wish it were in place for audiobooks about music or musicians (i.e. Steven Tyler’s memoir Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? by Steven Tyler and David Dalton; narrated by Jeremy Davidson.) There are always exceptions, and I’m open to them; just so long as the book is served best.
I like James Bond, I like movies, I like audiobooks. That means I like this fun readalong, listenalong, viewalong event with Jennifer from the Literate Housewife.
To join the Shaken, Not Stirred event, see the details in the announcement post or on the event’s blog. I’m not sure how many of these I will get around to doing, but I love the idea and hope to participate at least sometimes.
I’ve been exploring my world through audiobooks for over sixteen years! It all started when the narrator, Grover Gardner, asked me to proof his work on Umberto Ecco’s Foucault’s Pendulum. Proofing an audiobook means to check the audio for misreads (both text deviations and egregious misinterpretations) and for noise anomalies. In addition, I also started monitoring at Grover’s home studio. Monitoring was the name given to studio engineers in those days. The monitor kept the narrator on track, cued up the tape for re-reads, and ran the recording equipment. I proofed and monitored for Grover and for other narrators, eventually started my own business, Dog Eared Copy, Inc. to research and proof audiobooks. When Grover took on the responsibilities of Studio Director at Blackstone Audio, Inc. and moved us to Southern Oregon, I continued to do some freelance proofing and research until being brought into Blackstone myself. I was a Blackstone proofer for a couple more years, gradually moving into the studio and adding a lot more admin work into the mix. These days, my business card reads “Studio Services” which is a rather euphemistic way of saying I help with studio productions. And stuff.
I keep a blog, dog eared copy, which focuses on audiobook reviews. It is a personal blog with no advertisements that currently features audiobook reviews, “Flashback Friday" (wherein I take a look at pre-log material that I’ve journaled) and now "The Pink Chair" which I introduced today as a weekly item. The Pink Chair seeks to provide more detailed responses to twitter questions that have cropped up. I actually do listen to other companies’ audiobooks; but I always get a kick when someone recommends to me a Blackstone title!
At the end of 2010 I wrote a blog post (“Four Epiphanies”) that, instead of listing my favorite audiobooks of the year, summarized some of the ideas that emerged form my reading and listening and, the titles that informed them. Among the titles mentioned was one that made my personal Pantheon of All-Time Great Audiobooks, Matterhorn (by Karl Marlantes; narrated by Bronson Pinchot.) This year, so far, I’ve listened to some great audiobooks, including but not limited to, Columbine (by Dave Cullen; narrated by Don Leslie) and A Quiet Belief in Angels (by R.J. Ellory; narrated by Mark Bramhall.) And yet, I still feel I haven’t hit upon the audiobook of the year yet!