Until very recently I’ve had no use for audiobooks. I enjoy reading in my bed, I enjoy reading on the train. If there’s background noise, it’s probably coming from my iTunes or my new television. The only time I could tune into a narrative was when I was actually concentrating on the page before me. I once tried to listen to Nabokov’s Lolita, which is even read by Jeremy Irons, but I could never stay still long enough; I was always distracted, wanting to pick up the text instead.
And what an experience it has been. In the right hands, with fantastic voice actors and talented engineers, the excitement of reading comes alive. In many ways, it’s much more thrilling than hearing an author read from his or her own work, as generally the people who are reading for an audiobook are trained professionals, have directors who are able to assist on cadence and emphasis. It’s like being a kid all over again, having a librarian or a parent read a bedtime story to you; you get involved, you laugh along. It’s brilliant. You just have to make sure you select a narrative that is perhaps more effective when it’s heard, not seen and read.
The first audiobook I was able to get through was Bram Stocker’s Dracula, as read by Robert Whitfield. Whitfield was able to do each voice (it’s quite the polyphonic novel, with multiple narrators/letter writers) with a different lilt so that you knew immediately who was speaking without having to backtrack. It also doesn’t hurt that Dracula itself unravels in such a thrilling and mysterious way. Highly recommended for people starting out in the audiobook world.