Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Pink Chair: Tweets about "Untrained Narrators"

Lea Hensley (@lea_hensley) has written a Speaking of Audiobooks post titled, "Untrained narrators? I'm not interested" over at the All About Romance blog:

The blog post spawned an hours-long twitter convo  in which a number of different people from the audiobook community (listeners, reviewers, narrators and producers) from all different levels of expertise participated. I've copied my own tweets down in this post, only editing out things like "YES!" or a reference to Highlander for which you kinda had to be there to get ;-)

Anyway, I see that Lea's blog will be hosting a 6 narrator panel in February to discuss "positive solutions - path to success" and I'm hoping that further on, she will hold a roundtable that includes producers/studio directors/casting agents.

@dogearedcopy 10:51am 
At one point all the A-List narrators were untrained narrators.

@dogearedcopy 10:53am 
If audiobook publishers never take a chance on someone, where are the future narrators to come from?

@dogearedcopy 10:57am 
Yes, Big publishers do! Let's think about the past three months when the work flooded the studios. Experienced narrators were swamped bu the books had to go out. New voices had to be found!

@dogearedcopy 11:13am 
We have to take chances all the time. Some work out and some do not.

@dogearedcopy 11:14am 
You have to weigh the risk of the new talent vs the grade of the book

@dogearedcopy 11:16am 
Meaning that you're not going to put new talent on a high-end book...

@dogearedcopy 11:17am
Absolutely, positively QC must be present. I think that's wehere the real issue lies from the user's/listener's end...

@dogearedcopy 11:22am 
Just be a little bit more clear, the free market model of which a certain audiobook pub uses is factoring in the backlash. The risk is minimized is placing the bets on backlist titles.

@dogearedcopy 12:13pm 
Just for discussion's sake, ALL audiobook publishers make these decisions re new talent...

@dogearedcopy 12:14pm 
While not on a Goliath scale, the matrix of of price, availability & appropriateness along with the risk factor are all played out daily.

@dogearedcopy 12:21pm 
And too, what exactly *is* an untrained narrator?

@dogearedcopy 12:22pm 
There are no narrator schools and... workshops may introduce to the business but certainly aren't training grounds. ACting background is no guarantee either

@dogearedcopy 12:24pm 
So is it really about "training" as much as ongoing development?

@dogearedcopy 12:24pm 
And as a casting/studio director being able to identify potential?

@dogearedcopy 12:25pm 
I won't name names, but there have been artistic successes from narrators whose initial efforts were, quite frankly crap.You gotta know when to hold'em /fold 'em.

@dogearedcopy 12:47pm 
Ability to take direction = development. Once a narrator becomes concretized or resistant to direction, it's over.

@dogearedcopy 12:49pm 
But again we get back to getting the newbie in the studio to begin with!

@dogearedcopy 12:59pm 
The reason why actors are generally preferred is bc they understand things like direction, subtext and how an audience responds.

@dogearedcopy 1:01pm
I often find voice over crossovers more of a challenge bc their direction is in regard to information being delivered in a short span rather than the long haul of a full narrative

@dogearedcopy 1:05pm 
... I view audio drama more akin to acting than voice over; but I was actually going back to what looks promising

@dogearedcopy 2:57pm 
I've often decried the extinction of studio directors from the audiobook industry. Now I'm witnessing the passing of casting agents...

@dogearedcopy 2:58pm 
No, I'm sorry but assigning audiobooks is NOT the same as casting.

@dogearedcopy 3:08pm
Honestly, not for the better. It may serve audiobook publishers in the short run in terms of profits, but the backlash will not be worth it. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

House of Mirth

House of Mirth
by Edith Wharton
The House of Mirth was first published in 1905
Introduction and Notes by Jeffrey Meyer
Introduction, Notes and Further Reading Copyright © 2003 by Jeffrey Meyers
Note on Edith Wharton, The World of Edith Wharton and The House of Mirth, Inspired by The House of Mirth and Comments & Questions Copyright © 2003 by Barnes & Noble, Inc.

The House of Mirth is the tragedy of twenty-nine-year old Lily Bart who commits a series of egregious social faux pas that guarantee her downfall. Vain, a tease, pretentious, weak and bit stupid, Lily flits though the upper striatum of New York Society with a naïveté that is at odds with her upbringing. Trading in on her beauty and ability to charm the company she keeps, she flirts and snubs through parties on her way to… what? Unable to define her goals and discriminate to that end, she sabotages her opportunities on the premise of some vague morality. Though impoverished when her father is financially ruined and forced to live in a more circumscribed situation than what she was used to, she is nonetheless acculturated with the ways of the upper crust and thrives in the orbit of the wealthy. She knows the rules, the ways of the rich; and yet, she makes a series of incredulous decisions that defy not only convention, but common sense. 

Edith Wharton has written a novel about societal Darwinism. Mrs. Astor’s 400 of The Gilded Age evolved, and arguably devolved, as established families lost money and standing and, new wealth and those of a “certain race” crept in. Those who failed to adapt would find themselves consigned to the fringes and even “out” altogether. The exposition of this process through a number of characters in the novel is extremely well portrayed, but none more so than with Lily herself. Lily finds herself caught in a time of transition into the new society at the turn of the century and struggling to adapt to newer circumstances. The novel is written with Lily’s voice and perspective (though technically in the 3rd person omniscient), yet, despite being privy to the inner workings of Lily’s mind which might lend understanding to her modus operandi, the reader finds a curious lack of the survival instinct. 

If there is a failing of the novel, it would be that the reader can never come into full sympathy with the protagonist. Whatever you may think of Lily, as a romantic figure, tragic victim, insipid socialite… it’s nearly impossible to know Lily herself. Perhaps this is because Lily doesn’t have a clear definition of herself either. The reader, like her friends, never really knows Lily and it results in a series of misunderstandings. How can you have faith in someone you don’t really know and can’t get a handle on? As one of Lily’s erstwhile friends, Carry Fisher put it when trying to explicate Lily’s situation, “…but I never could understand you, Lily!” Edith Wharton doe not give the reader a special insight into Lily so we can only judge her instead of love her.

Other Stuff:

This book qualifies for a personal challenge of reading a couple of Edith Wharton novels this year: The House of Mirth, Ethan Fromme, The Age of Innocence and The Buccaneers. I am reading at least three of these novels (The House of MirthEthan Fromme and, The Age of Innocence) with @lithousewife :-)

This book also qualifies for the What's in a Name Challenge, #6 hosted by @BethFishReads at, as a book that has a title with an emotion ("Mirth") in it:

This book also qualifies for the Mount TBR Challenge hosted by Bev at My Reader's Block and on goodreads. I've had this book opn my shelves since November 21, 2012:

I did not read the Introduction, Notes and Further Reading by Jeffrey Meyers or; the Note on Edith Wharton, The World of Edith Wharton and The House of Mirth, Inspired by The House of Mirth and Comments & Questions.

I purchased The House of Mirth (by Edith Wharton; Introduction and Notes by Jeffrey Meyers) from Barnes & Noble in Medford, OR.

I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Friday, January 25, 2013

2013 Audio Book Challenge: Flirting

Teresa is once again hosting the Original Audio Book Challenge (click on the image above to head over to the site.) There are five levels to the challenge, the first being "Flirting" wherein a participant listens to six audiobooks. I've completed this level and am now committing to the next level, "Going Steady" which is twelve titles! Without further todo, here are the titles and commentary for the six audiobooks I have listened to so far this year:

The Bad Beginning
(by Lemony Snicket; multi-voiced production starring Tim Curry)
  October 24, 2004, Harper Audio
2 hours, 29 minutes
Children, Ages 8-12

This was an impulse purchase that somewhat defies my usual listening/audiobook practices in that I have already read and enjoyed the first three Series of Unfortunate Event books and, grittier noir fare is more to my liking. But there it was, in the $5.95 "bin" at iTunes and I thought, "What the heck. I haven't heard the multi-voiced version..." For the uninitiated, the Series of Unfortunate Events is about three children who are orphaned and subsequently remanded into the care of legal guardians. In The Bad Beginning, the children encounter their first and greatest nemesis, Count Olaf, who hopes to gain control of the Beaudelaire fortune. At the beginning of the book and audio, the narrator warns you repeatedly that this is not a HEA tale, and yet I must admit to being somewhat chagrined to realize that the book does not indeed end happily ever after! But hope must spring eternal, as after all, I continue to read more in the series! In the books, the illustrations of Brett Helquist grace the covers and chapter headings. I don't know what the original medium was, but they give a feel of having been rendered in pen-and-ink and are somewhat reminiscent of Edward Gorey's Victorian-like artwork. You don't get the artwork with the audio of course, but the trade off is that you get Tim Curry as the narrator! He has a lovely, smooth, slightly aged British voice that knows how to render the angst and pathos of the story without totally creeping you out. You sense that he is in control of the story and your attention. Harper Audio has cut his narration with some other (uncredited) voices for the multi-voice edition and for the most part everything works. The talent voicing Mr. Poe is wonderfully snuffly and priggish and, with the exception of Mr. Poe's children, the children actually sound like children (as opposed to adults pretending to be children.) Count Olaf is nasty and oily and the children are precocious without being annoying. The only quibble I had was at the beginning of the production when the sound effects were applied a bit heavily and, there was an odd three-stroke monotone key that was applied at least twice during the story. I have no idea what this sound effect was supposed to be or signify so it was a little bit distracting. Still, all in all, well worth the money.


The Reptile Room
(by Lemony Snicket; narrated by Tim Curry)
  September 9, 2003, Listening Library
3 hours, 11 minutes
Children, Ages 8-12

The Beaudelaire orphans have now been remanded into the custody of their distant uncle-by-marriage, Uncle Monty who is a herpetologist. Count Olaf returns to threaten their very lives in a scheme of boldly conceived subterfuge. Lemony Snicket's brilliance lies within making absurd situations feel real with the tension; his humor; and not only explaining vocabulary words but in applying those words analogously to provide greater comprehension. Tim Curry's voicing of Lemony Snicket/the narrator, Count Olaf and Mr. Poe was fabulous; the kids? Not so much; but overall it was very entertaining. If I did find my attention wandering a little bit, I think it's only because I did just recently read the book in print and I gave myself permission to think about something else at the less engaging parts. I bought the 3-CD set in 2011 and while it doesn't include all of Helquist's artwork from the book, the packaging is pretty nice: The cover matches the book cover, the interior contains a clip of Helquist's work in the CD beds and there is another graphic printed edge-to-edge on the CDs themselves. If you are wondering why I'm mentioning the artwork, it's because the quasi-Victorian feel of the illustrations adds to the overall feel of the work.

I purchased a retail copy of this audiobook from an online vendor ( ?)


The Strange Case of Origami Yoda
(by Tom Angleberger; narrated by Charlotte Perry, Mark Turetsky, Greg Steinbruner, Jonathan Todd Ross and, Julia Gibson)
  October 2010, Recorded Books
2 hours, 14 minutes
Children, Ages 8-12

The book is a "case file" compiled by 6th grader Tommy as a way to figure out whether the advice-dispensing finger puppet worn by the class loser is genuine in its mysticism or an elaborate hoax perpetuated by the wearer. The collection of anecdotes which serve as testimony to the validity of Origami Yoda is humorous and the overall story arc is very clever. Mark Turetsky was very good as the story's narrator Tommy, but the rest of the cast sounded too old to be believable as a bunch of eleven- or twelve-year olds. The book did not contain the marginalia and supplemental material that was included in the book and; my daughter thought it would have been great had the publishers included a copy of "The Twist" (by Chuck Berry) at the end as bonus material; but nonetheless, my daughter enjoyed it so much that she asked if we could listen to the other books in the series :-)

                                                I dnloaded a digital copy of this audiobook from iTunes.


Darth Paper Strikes Back
(by Tom Angleberger; narrated by Mark Turetsky, Julia Gibson, Jennifer Ikeda and Ali Ahn)
  October 2011, Recorded Books
3 hours, 45 minutes
Children, Ages 8-12

Dwight/Origami Yoda are threatened with expulsion from school after Dwight appears to have threatened another student. Tommy, who created a case file to prove the credibility of Origami Yoda in the first book in the series,  The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, puts together another set of testimonials to show how Dwight/Origami Yoda are actually with the Force. Harvey/Darth Paper serve as the story's antagonist/s; but not all is at appears, even Harvey! The surprise ending, as well as the story throughout, is fun, funny and clever, though the whole falls just a little bit shy of the brilliance of the first-in-series. Mark Turetsky remains the star of the cast, and my daughter doesn't care that the rest don't sound like her classmates! I've skimmed through the print copies of the Origami Yoda books and mentioned to my daughter that if she wanted to get the books to check out "Kellon's" drawings (the illustrations in the book) or the activity pages in the back of the book, I would have no qualms about doing so. I feel like she's missing out a little bit by not seeing the illustrations, but so she has definitely been entertained by the audio!

                                             I dnloaded a digital copy of this audiobook from iTunes.


The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee
(by Tom Angleberger; narrated by Julia Gibson, Jennifer Ikeda, Ali Ahn, Jonathan Todd Ross, Mark Turetsky and, Greg Steinbruner) 
  August 2012, Recorded Books
3 hours
Children, Ages 8-12

This is another "case file" that the main character, Tommy delivers in his investigation into an origami figure, this time a fortune teller folded in the likeness of Chewbacca! The third in the Origami Yoda series, it was as equally fun as its predecessors and Mark Turetsky, the narrator who voices Tommy is excellent as always. This time he outdid himself with truly the best Chewie impersonation ever! And I do mean ever! The rest of the cast however sounds too old to be playing their roles; but the target audience of children, ages 8-12 are unlikely to care. My daughter, however did complain about one narrator (Julia Gibson who plays the character, Sarah)  whose "esses" "hurt her ears." It's a case of sibilance striking the eardrums sometimes painfully. This could be an instance of the narrator having a lisp, poor mic placement and/or, poor post processing. There were also some unusually long pauses in the middle of the story which were a bit distracting. Here I suspect poor editing. Check this one out from the library, listen for Mark Turetsky's Chewie, then switch to print which has the added bonus of "Kellon's" drawings :-)

                                                  I dnloaded a digital copy of this audiobook from iTunes.  


The Eleventh Plague
(by Jeff Hirsch; narrated by Dan Bittner) 
  September 01, 2011, Scholastic Audio
7 hours, 3 minutes
Young Adult 

A fifteen-year old boy and his father are salvagers in an American landscape ruined in a biological war with China. They end up in a suburban settlement which offers them help and safety and, its own risks and dangers as well. The story starts out dark and interesting; but fails to maintain the mood or create an alternate tenor effectively. There are some better-than-average descriptive phrases and the story is not without meaning; it just fails to deliver on the promise of the opening passages. Nonetheless, the narrator was excellent, voicing the young teens, older adults and females without fault. 

              I borrowed a CD copy of this audiobook from the Jackson County Libray System (Southern Oregon.) 


I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.