Saturday, December 3, 2016

My First Book on Tape; My First Hemingway

I've never been a fiction reader, not sure why. I read the novels one reads in school, the de rigueur sci-fi, and the adolescent classics (Vonnegut, Salinger, Gibran, Robbins, etc.). But I never did a serious read of the classics. Being blessed/cursed with a lifestyle that exposed me to a wide range of people and places, I tried to fathom the human condition via direct observation rather than through the eyes of others.

I never read a lick of Hemingway before last year, when I bought the unabridged audiobook of William Hurt reading "The Sun Also Rises." I planned a drive to Detroit and back to accommodate the 8 hours of playing time, and I popped the disks into my car stereo.

And I quickly realized why I haven't been more attracted to fiction: my internal narrator is incredibly flat. The voices in my head as I read strike a dull monotone. I didn't realize there was any other way until I heard Hurt read. I always found nuance in the language, but never dramatic tone and contour. Strangely, I've had some acting training, and am expressive when reading aloud. But my interior "reading voice" developed before that, and I might be stuck with it.

I don't often do long drives, and my mind's too excitable to submit to a steady regimen of multi-hour books on tape. Instead, I've been trying to train my imagination to be a better actor. However, I'm certainly convinced of the power of great actors to heighten this experience.

Alas, there aren't many truly great actors reading audiobooks. But the Hurt recording is just one of a series of "name" actors Simon & Schuster hired to read Hemingway classics in a series known as "The Ernest Hemingway Audiobook Library" (reviewed by NY Times here)

In the same series:

A Farewell To Arms, read by John Slattery
To Have & Have Not, read by Will Patton
For Whom The Bell Tolls, read by Campbell Scott
Across The River & Into The Trees, read by Boyd Gaines
The Old Man & The Sea, read by Donald Sutherland
Islands In The Stream, read by Bruce Greenwood
The Garden Of Eden, read by Patrick Wilson
True At First Light, read by Brian Dennehy
Death in the Afternoon, read by Boyd Gaines
Green Hills of Africa, read by Josh Lucas
A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition, read by John Bedford Lloyd
By-Line: Ernest Hemingway, read by Campbell Scott
The Short Stories (three volumes), read by Stacy Keach

You can order individual ones on iTunes, Amazon, or Audbible or the whole collection, which is expensive (I got lucky and scored a used set on eBay for $75).

Audiobooks Links:
10 Audiobooks That Are Worth Getting for the Voice Acting Alone
The 10 Greatest Audiobook Narrators
The complete, original BBC radio version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Free Audiobooks Courtesy of's acclaimed audio version of "Heart of Darkness" " for free on iTunes
A master index of free audiobooks, including ones read by well-known figures such as Neil Gaiman and Julian Barnes.
(How to) Put your audiobooks in the cloud with iTunes Match

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