Saturday, October 8, 2011

What Does Your Book Sound Like?

Scott D. Parker

What do you hear when you read a book?

It's an interesting question for me, an avid audiobook listener. I'll freely admit that the stories I listen to are colored by the narrator. A good narrator can make a mediocre book decent, a bad narrator can hurt a good book, and when you get the perfectly matched pair of narrator and prose, the end result is greater than the sum of its parts.

The most recent book I finished via audio was the third Nikki Heat book by Richard Castle, Heat Rises (my take). Johnny Heller, the narrator for all three novels, does a superb job of the nuances with the the two leads, Heat and Jameson Rook, the two characters, for those of y'all that don't know, are the "stand-ins" for Castle and Beckett from the TV show "Castle." Heller reads the prose with a subtle wiseguy lilt that feels incredibly natural.

More than that, however, the prose itself reads as if the fictional character Richard Castle, played by Nathan Fillion, really did write the book. The word choice, the style of the prose, the similes were all something you'd easily imagine Castle saying on his TV show. In fact, back a couple of years ago when the first book came out, I was secretly pining for Fillion to read the audiobook. That might've been just a little too meta.

That's not the case for real authors, especially the ones I've met at book events at Murder by the Book. I think we all do the same thing when we either pick up a book by an author we've never met or, more to the point, never heard. We fill in the gaps, casting the various characters of a novel with the voices in our heads. But once you've met an author and heard the tone of voice or accent, do you transmit that voice to their books?

I do. I'm currently working my way through two books, one audio and one on my Nook. I met fellow DSDer, Joelle Charbonneau, last year for the first time here in Houston. At the author event, she read a passage from her first book, and, in conversation afterwards, it became quickly apparent that her real voice infiltrates her prose. Now, when I read a Charbonneau story or novel, I hear Joelle saying the words. I've had the same vibe having met or listened to Duane Swiercznyski, Russell McLean (another DSDer), Stephen J. Cannell, and Stephen King.

So, do y'all "hear" the author's voice in the prose?

CD of the Week: Tony Bennett: Duets II. I'm a casual fan of Bennett, owning only 4-5 CDs. This was on my radar as soon as I heard about it. While folks will likely remember this as the last recording of Amy Winehouse, the rest of the tunes are strikingly good. Not all ballads and such: see the off-beat arrangement of "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" with Michael Buble. What really gets me most is how good a singer Lady Gaga is. Singing "The Lady is a Tramp," Lady Gaga belts out her pure, clear voice that compliments Bennett's smooth, well-aged one. In her pop tunes, you can hear her talent, but in a venue like this, it really stands out.

Tweet of the Week:
Pres. Obama: There may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than fact that much of world learned of his passing on a device he invented. -- Mario Batali (among others)

The iPod and iTunes did nothing less than change the paradigm by which I acquire and listen to music. That I've downloaded TV episodes on my Mac means my movie watching is moving in a new direction. My Nook--a cousin of Apple's touchscreen technology--is changing the way I acquire and read books. And my iPod Touch is, on most days, all the computer I need. And it fits in my pocket. Remarkable.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I was just thinking about the audio aspect the other day because I listen to them too. I realized the way the reader was reading a certain character's lines was calculated to make me think of him a certain way. For instance, think of all the ways you can say, "Oh, really." I think I may have thought differently of that character if I had read the lines rather than had someone, in effect, interpret them.
I also bought DUETS 2. Heard the Lady Gaga song on the radio and couldn't pass it up. His voice at 85 is astounding.

Scott D. Parker said...

I agree with you. The only downside to an audiobook is when you have a scene in which an unknown character (in text) says something. Well, the narrator is obliged to say the lines in the voice for the mysterious character (that is later revealed in the book). Thus, an audio listener basically knows who the mysterious character is before a text reader. But those times are rare--I can only think of one right now--but it does change the book.

Bennett at 85...still going strong. A genuine American treasure. Looking forward to breaking out his Christmas CD in a month or so.