“Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue. But if you mouth it, as many of our players do, I had as lief the town crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus, by use all gently, for in the very torrent, tempest, and (as I may say) whirlwind of your passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. O, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings, who for the most part are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb shows and noise.” — Hamlet’s speech to the actors
This weekend, I found an interesting article in the New York Times, “Actors Today Don’t Just Read for the Part. Reading IS the Part.” The article discusses how audio books are providing more and more employment for trained actors who look for steady work and have yet to become A-list celebrities. But some celebrities got in on the action. Actors such as Whoopie Goldberg, Alan Cumming and Edward Herrmann often narrate for audio books as well.
I like the idea that up-and-coming actors get to use their acting skills this way. You’d get to establish all sorts of characters in the readers’ minds and set moods through the dialogue.
In a way, it seems to me that the use of audio books combines the best of past and present technology. In the early days of radio, actors would put on shows for the public and everybody in the family would gather around the radio to listen to the show. I have some recordings of these productions, such as “The Shadow,” “Abbott and Costello,” and “The Burns and Allen Show”. They’re fun to hear and still just as good as the day they were recorded. Gracie Allen’s illogical logic still cracks me up. (This is a woman who joked that she could save power by shortening the cord of the vacuum cleaner and when asked to say something funny, replied “Charlie Chaplin.”)
But now the audible entertainment can be transferred to an MP3 player, an iPad or an iPod so it goes anywhere you go. I bet that would liven up things when you were waiting for a plane or in line at the DMV.
There are some actors whose voices seem made for this type of project. Edward Herrmann is one; Richard Armitage, Sir Patrick Stewart and Harrison Ford are others. And I could see Sharon Stone, Judi Dench and Dawn French doing the same, if they haven’t already. I speak from inexperience; I have yet to get my first audio book. (Ack! Stop throwing things at me, you bibliophiles! Can someone toss me a newspaper so I can protect myself?)
Blog readers, what are your opinions of audio books? Which narrators and books have you enjoyed the most?