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Topic: Good audiobook narrators

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Old 01-18-2006, 03:27 PM
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The pronunciation issue is one of the reason why I encourage my kids to listen to audiobooks.

Another great "character" reader is Barbara Rosenblat doing the Amelia Peabody Series by Elizabeth Peters (mysteries with archealogists in Egypt in the early 1900's). I heard an interview with both the reader and the author which was VERY interesting. Peters said that she had Rosenblat's voice characterizations in her head as she was writing the subsequent books ever since the first recording, and that the characters had become a kind of joint creation between reader and author.
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Old 01-18-2006, 03:39 PM
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Barbara Rosenblat's readiings of the Amelia Peabody Series are among Recorded Books, LLC's bestselling titles. I forgot to mention that there are sometimes "extras" to the Recorded Books recordings. For example, in the Patrick Tull narration of Chapter 1 of "Post Captain" by Patrick O'Brian, the narrator actually sings the ditty about the naval reaction to peace -- the lack of opportunities for promotion and what the admiral, captain, lieutenant, and midshipman plan to do (and also how the doctor will go set up as mountebank in a country fair). I've never heard that in the other audio recordings (by Robert Hardy, etc.) of this work.
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Old 01-18-2006, 04:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Vance
The pronunciation issue is one of the reason why I encourage my kids to listen to audiobooks.
I was given the Harry Potter first book very early on as an audiobook after I had read the book about 5 times from my parents. I was the only one pronouncing 'Hermione' correct for ages at my school!

I'm glad my parents encouraged me to read and also listen to audio since I found it a very relaxing thing and still do!
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Old 01-18-2006, 04:59 PM
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My daughter (9) plays her audiobooks on a little Rio Nitrus while she is doing art, and other little projects in her room (she does a great deal of cutting and pasting of stuff to create art montages, etc) and I am not sure whether the books are something to do while she is "working" or whether the "work" is something to do while she is listening!

Personally, I tend to find little odd jobs around the house so I can listen while I do them.
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Old 01-18-2006, 05:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by moriond
I'd love to hear the Stephen Fry's reading of Harry Potter.
I've got Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix as read by Stephen Fry. He is excellent, and while so is Jim Dale (I recall Dale's reading of Lucius Malfoy [Draco's father] as reminding me of the marvelous voice of James Mason), I prefer Fry.

But, I'm a fan of Stephen Fry. I enjoyed him in the Jeeves & Wooster TV series. And I've read some of his books, and listened to his book, The Hippopotamus, which was read by Stephen Fry. The Hippopotamus is one of my very favorite audio books.
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Old 01-18-2006, 06:41 PM
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Do you remember "Bits of Fry and Laurie"?

It was the skit show they had before they both got onto bigger things.

What really annoys me is that Hugh Laurie took on an American accent for his new TV show. I am not sure why this bothers me, but it is kind of like Mel Gibson purposefully taking on an American accent at a certain point in his career in his everyday speech. It makes no sense. British and Australian accents sell in the US.
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Old 01-18-2006, 06:42 PM
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Originally posted by arsolot
But, I'm a fan of Stephen Fry. I enjoyed him in the Jeeves & Wooster TV series.
Agreed, the Jeeves & Wooster TV series is excellent. If you haven't already come across it, let me point you to this web site for the Granada TV series. They used to have sound samples from a CD, "The World of Jeeves and Wooster", that was issued in the early days of the series and immediately disappeared. Alas, these have long since been removed, so you you will not be able to hear Fry and Laurie do separate songs from the television series (Minnie the Moocher, etc.) but there is still a lot of good content there.

My favorite narrator for Wodehouse is Alexander Spencer, but his recordings are not available from Audible, or through NetLibrary, either. If these are not available through your library, the easiest way to get these (in the U.S.) is through Borders -- not through Recorded Books. Most of these titles are still only sold as audio tapes, although Recorded Books has just started offering these for sale as CDs to libraries.

Last edited by moriond; 01-18-2006 at 07:34 PM.
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Old 01-18-2006, 10:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by moriond
My favorite narrator for Wodehouse is Alexander Spencer, but his recordings are not available from Audible, or through NetLibrary, either.
I've listened to quite a few Wodehouse books from Audible. They've got Jonathan Cecil, Frederick Davidson and Ian Carmichael as narrators. I like them all, and lean to J. Cecil as the best, but the others are really just as good. I've never had the pleasure of any Wodehouse books narrated by Alexander Spencer. If he's better than Cecil, Davidson and Carmichael, he's really, really good.
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Old 01-18-2006, 10:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by arsolot
I've listened to quite a few Wodehouse books from Audible. They've got Jonathan Cecil, Frederick Davidson and Ian Carmichael as narrators.
I've listened to all of these narrators, and several others -- some of whom are on the Audible site, but others of whom (Timothy Carlton, Martin Jarvis, Simon Cadell, etc.) are not. Of the Audible readers, I prefer Jonathan Cecil, but I do like Alexander Spencer's rendition better. This is probably individual preference. Certainly this Washington Post article writer seems to have a different opinion. (And I can't detect a "faint Scottishness" about Spencer's accent -- not even when he renders Jeeves speaking about "the poet Burns" who wrote in "the North British dialect".)

The one limitation is that Alexander Spencer only reads the Jeeves and Wooster stories. My favorites among the other short stories are probably the Talking Tape Company cassettes by Timothy Carlton reading "Anselm Gets His Chance", "Mulliner's Buck-U-Uppo", and "Lord Emsworth and the Girlfriend". ("The Clicking of Cuthbert" is not bad, either). (This is/was a UK company, and the tapes are now out of print). Simon Cadell's reading of various "Golf Stories" (on the BBC label) are also quite good.

We should probably have another thread -- about which audiobooks you replay the most. This is not necessarily the same as the audiobooks you recommend, because there are many great audiobooks that you don't want to revisit frequently. Call it the "Play It Again, Sam" (PIAS) index. Some of these will be like "comfort food". And just to show that not all of these entries will be P.G. Wodehouse, I'll list a completely different title that fits into this category -- the L.A. Theatreworks production of "The Odd Couple" with Nathan Lane and David Paymer. This is available on Audible, and does bear repeat listening. YMMV
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Old 01-19-2006, 02:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Vance
Do you remember "Bits of Fry and Laurie"?

It was the skit show they had before they both got onto bigger things.

What really annoys me is that Hugh Laurie took on an American accent for his new TV show. I am not sure why this bothers me, but it is kind of like Mel Gibson purposefully taking on an American accent at a certain point in his career in his everyday speech. It makes no sense. British and Australian accents sell in the US.
And how...On Monday, Laurie won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a TV Drama. Though, to be fair, the GGs are voted upon by members of the Hollywood Foreign Press, who aren't exactly Americans.

I've only watched the show a couple of times and I find his American accent to be glib and irritating. It approximates the goofy voice Brits do when they're attempting a deliberately condescending imitation of us Yanks. Contrast that with, say, Heath Ledger in "Brokeback Mountain," who you never for one second doubt is anything but 100% redblooded American. Rachel Griffiths did a similarly effective job during her run on "Six Feet Under."

Last edited by Hrothgar; 01-19-2006 at 03:06 AM.
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Old 01-19-2006, 11:37 AM
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Right, Brits tend to make their American accent to nasal and high pitched, kind of a stereotype. I can usually spot a Brit doing American. I wonder if American actors do any better with British accents.

I think Jude Law did a pretty good job as well in Cold Mountain. I think if they are given the chance to do a "stronger" American dialect such as one of the southern accents, it is easier than doing a fairly flat "mid-American".
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Old 01-19-2006, 07:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Vance
Another great "character" reader is Barbara Rosenblat doing the Amelia Peabody Series by Elizabeth Peters (mysteries with archealogists in Egypt in the early 1900's). I heard an interview with both the reader and the author which was VERY interesting. Peters said that she had Rosenblat's voice characterizations in her head as she was writing the subsequent books ever since the first recording, and that the characters had become a kind of joint creation between reader and author.
Barbara Rosenblat and George Guidall were written up in a NY Times article about audiobook narrators: "Actors You've Never Heard of Are Becoming the Ones Heard Most" (Jan. 15, 2005). (Last year was a good year for audiobook press coverage). The point of the article was that the qualities required of a good audiobook narrator are often not ones that excellent -- even Oscar winning- -- actors possess. Here's an excerpt:

Quote:
Excerpted from NY Times (Jan. 15, 2005) Actors You've Never Heard of Are Becoming the Ones Heard Most

She's earned 27 Golden Earphone awards from AudioFile magazine, the recorded-books industry barometer, and five Audies from the Audio Publishers Association, the most awarded to a single narrator. She's recorded more than 400 titles.

Watch Ms. Rosenblat work at the Chelsea studios of Recorded Books, and you get the sense that even an Oscar winner might not be able to pull this off. What screenplay, after all, would require an actress to do what she did during a recent afternoon's recording of ''The Serpent on the Crown,'' the 17th installment of Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody Mysteries series?

Ms. Rosenblat was delivering the dialogue of a handful of characters, most of them men, and was shifting quickly between characters with British, Indian, Arabic, Egyptian, Irish, Austro-Hungarian and Texan accents. Those distinct roles interacted with incredulity, shock, anguish and sarcasm. It was emotion layered on dialect layered on perfect enunciation.
Rosenblat mentions that the difficulty for actors who are reading is that every nuance that they convey with gesture, expression, etc. has to go into the voice. Guidall remarks that many actors tend to overact when reading. The director of operations at Recorded Books, David Markowitz, commented that, "The odds are probably 50-to-1 against a talented actor being a talented reader," with many of them coming alive during dialogue but falling flat during straight narration.

The other reality is that when relatively prominent actors, like Scott Brick, make the cut of accomplished narrators, outfits like Recorded Books, LLC and Books-On-Tape often can't afford to hire them for really lengthy audiobooks. Sometimes publishers will hire one actor for the abridged version and a second (less expensive) actor to read the unabridged version. (I think this may be changing with the increasing popularity and profitability of audiobooks, at least in the view of the big commercial book publishers.)

And yes, it's true that Barbara Mertz (aka Elizabeth Peters) was very taken with Rosenblat's reading, and has written into her contract that Rosenblat read her books.
Quote:
She also has Ms. Rosenblat, speaking in the British-accented voice of Amelia Peabody, suggesting that callers ''please do'' leave a message on the outgoing message of her answering machine at home.
Just for your background light reading.

Last edited by moriond; 01-19-2006 at 07:07 PM.
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Old 01-22-2006, 02:33 PM
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Originally posted by jemm
Well I mostly only have the regular stuff. But I find Stephen Fry excellent at the Harry Potter series. I don't like the Jim Dale (US) versions so much - although I've only heard clips of them. That might be because I'm not american.
My son is playing a Harry Potter video game and I just remembered that Stephen Fry is the "narrator" in those games.
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Old 01-23-2006, 01:28 AM
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That is very interesting about the actors and readers phenomenon. It really is worth the time to listen to any of the Amelia Peabody books just to hear Rosenblat at work, and most libraries carry at least one of them. The interview with the two of them was at the end of one of the RB, LLC recordings, but I do not remember which one.

I had not heard about the phone message or the bit about Peter's contract, thanks!

On George Guidall, my other favorites from him are the Iliad and the Epic of Gilgamesh.
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Old 01-25-2006, 09:46 PM
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An excellent "cast" reading is the "His Dark Materials" series by Phillip Pullman. Young Adult it may be, but wonderfully read/acted. My husband and I rank in up in our top 3 audio books.
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