Electric Review

Culture & Criticism From the Far Distant Realms

New Releases From Brilliance Audio

WHY BE HAPPY WHEN YOU COULD BE NORMAL? Jeannette Winterson. Brilliance Audio. Read by Jeannette Winterson.

When I saw on the cover that Ms. Winterson would be reading her own book, I felt a surge of apprehension. It’s not that authors can’t read their own work; they usually can, and often better than anyone else.

My apprehension stemmed from the fact that she was from Manchester, in the industrial north of England.

You see, there’s no such thing as “an English accent.” Specifically, London alone is said to have over 1,200 languages in use among its populace; and over half of those languages are English. Moreover, some accents are indecipherable to Londoners living only a few blocks away. Similarly, there are parts of Manchester where Scots go to learn how to be unintelligible to Americans.

And then there was the subject matter. How well would I be able to relate to the story of a gay girl being raised in a psychotically fundamentalist home?

Even though I’m only about half way through the five disks, I’ve heard enough.

Simply, this is extraordinary work. Winterson has a fine reading voice – lucid, clear, distinct and utterly authentic. If she weren’t already a fine author, she could make her living working for Brilliance; she is that accomplished at narration.

In terms of the writing, this autobiography is as harrowing as it is endearing: Whether it’s a half-ass exorcism meant to cast demons out of lesbians and/or record players, or arguments with a professor over why Nabokov hated women, Winterson never fails to propel the reader forward.

This is rare and beautiful stuff. Don’t miss it.

To order, see amazon.com.

by Bryan Zepp Jamieson


Zepp Jamieson was born in Ottawa, Ontario, and spent his formative years living in various parts of Canada, the UK, South Africa and Australia before finally moving to the United States, where he has lived for over 40 years. Aside from writing, his interests include hiking, raising dogs and cats, and making computers jump through hoops. His wife of 25 years edits his copy, and bravely attempts to make him sound coherent. Reach him through The Electric Review.

METHUSELAH’S CHILDREN. Robert A. Heinlein. Read by MacLeod Andrews. Brilliance Audio.

Robert A. Heinlein’s Methuselah’s Children was originally written 70 years ago and then expanded into novel form in the 1950s.

I first read Methuselah’s Children as a teen in the early 1960s, and then reread it two more times over the following 20 years. Since I knew the storyline and characters by heart, this audio version allowed me to savor the voiceover.

Heinlein built this story – which serves as one of his best early works – on the strength and humanity of his characters. Thus, it has held up well for over 7 decades. However, this fact also presented several hurdles for narrator MacLeod Andrews to surmount.

When we read a book, each of us attaches a narrative voice to the story in our head – it ends up being similar to, but not quite the same, as what we hear when we think. In turn, a powerful author will establish his own narrative voice in the mind of the reader.

So, as I hit play, I wondered whether or not Andrews’ reading was about to conflict with what my subconscious knew as itsHeinlein voice.

Heinlein’s book was written at a time when ‘the American accent’ was distinctly Brooklyn: In that world, women were dames, and hard-boiled detectives, without irony, would utter phrases such as, “Oh, a wise guy, eh?”

Given this, it seems to me that most narrators would battle a terrible temptation to appropriate the voices of James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, or Mae West along the way.

And finally, there are the myriad technical aspects that have to be transcended if an audio book is to succeed: Is the voice modulated, neither monotonic nor sing-song? Does he puff into the mike when uttering plosives? Does he avoid reading action passages with tremulous excitement?

In reading Methuselah’s Children, MacLeod Andrews manages these hurdles expertly, and the result is a pleasurable listening experience.

Here, Andrews doesn’t become the emcee; instead, he introduces you to an old friend you haven’t heard from in many years, and then simply lets you enjoy what your friend has to say.

To order, see amazon.com.

by Bryan Zepp Jamieson


Zepp Jamieson was born in Ottawa, Ontario, and spent his formative years living in various parts of Canada, the UK, South Africa and Australia before finally moving to the United States, where he has lived for over 40 years. Aside from writing, his interests include hiking, raising dogs and cats, and making computers jump through hoops. His wife of 25 years edits his copy, and bravely attempts to make him sound coherent. Reach him through The Electric Review.

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This entry was posted on June 26, 2013 by in 2013, May 2013, Rat On Audiobooks and tagged , .
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