Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Armchair Audies 2014: Narration By Author

I listened, I considered, I posted, I judged. Now I'm gonna give the rundown of who wins (IMO) this year's Audie Award for best Narration by Author or Authors. 

The nominees:

I realize I didn't do a post back in October when I listened to David Rakoff's narration of his Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish (Random House Audio/Books on Tape, 2013)
I did review it on Goodreads, though, so I'll reiterate: Lots of fun to listen to Rakoff's narration of his novel. A few of the characters broke free of the rhyme scheme and took on some life, and in general I was delighted and impressed with what he made language do to serve the story and his couplets.

I did write here about the others - Billy Crystal, Shirley Jones, Grace Coddington, Valerie Harper, and Neil Gaiman.

And as I said before - sincerely believing that my bias towards fiction isn't skewing my opinion too much - the celebrity books aren't the winners here. Crystal's is the closest - his narration is funny and fluid, well worth the time. The other three (Coddington in particular) are fine if you were already interested in the subjects, and generally competent, but nothing to go out of your way for.

Rakoff has a deserved sentimental bump here. He read the book in his last days, and that is apparent in his well-trained, familiar, wry voice. It still captivates and it's delightful to let it wash over you. But that wash, combined with the rhyming couplets that lean towards cleverness rather than content, keeps this from being a real story-telling experience.

Gaiman, though, as I noted, is the gold standard of authors narrating their books. He sustains tension and mystery and wonder and pain throughout, entirely transporting the listener to the wonderful world he created.

The two who might wrest it from Gaiman are Crystal because of his celebrity and gift with character voices, or Rakoff because of his tragic early death and beloved but failing voice. But going purely on 'this is the best narration from open to close,' Gaiman should win the Audie.

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