Our Hyde Park Corner (or Squawk Box). A place for more general discussion about the Classics Book Club – as, for example, suggestions for future readings.
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Readers for My Ántonia
Posted 2 June 2018 – by Tom Looker
REVISED 12 JUNE
I’ve been asked whether I have audiobook recommendations for both Cather’s My Ántonia and Wharton’s The Age of Innocence.
I’ve now spent some time listening to the clips of narrators for Cather’s novel (via Audible) and my recommendations have changed slightly from my previous posting. Now I think that Grover Gardiner (for Audio Contractors) delivers the most engaging performance. His voice sounds more mature and flexible (within limits) than the other readers and he speaks with a quirky, distinctively American twang. He tells his story with animation and in a tone that makes me think occasionally of Samuel Clemens. If I remember rightly from previous books (e.g. some by Faulkner*), Gardiner doesn’t do a lot with the different voices of the various characters, yet his overall delivery is engaging enough to keep a listener involved. (Gardiner’s was the one clip on Audible that held my attention for the entire 5-minutes; I had to push myself to keep listening to the other audio samples.)
However, for some reason Grover Gardiner‘s performance is not in our library system at the moment. (I will try to make some copies available to anyone interested.) Of the remaining readers, I can recommend two whose voices are a little less repetitive, uninflected, and tedious than is the norm for American actors. (Of course I am speaking out of my own prejudices.)
Bob Colacci (for Brilliance Audio) and Jeff Cummings (for Blackstone) strike me as the best alternatives to Grover Gardiner. The short clips on Audible don’t help me choose between them because I can’t tell how each reader might wear on the ear after a while. Both voices are lighter and more boyish than Gardiner’s – not necessarily a bad thing; the problem is that as actors they’re less disciplined and focused than the older thespian, and so they’re sure to become more tedious in the long run. Still, as I say, I think they’re good enough to carry listeners through the book.
I can’t recommend any of the other readers. I’ll make particular mention of George Guidall (Recorded Books) because he’s readily available in the libraries and because he’s well-known. Unfortunately, to my ear, Guidall’s familiar reading style simply doesn’t fit Cather’s book. His vocal mannerisms (repetitive cadences, breathiness, oddly placed emphases, etc.) dulls Cather’s prose from something that was unusual and innovative in her time to something far more pedestrian; Guidall’s reading changes Cather’s subtle artfulness into something more like a cliché.
Another available reading is from Patrick Lawlor (Tantor Audio). Perhaps some might enjoy Lawlor’s soft, reedy delivery, but it’s a bit much for me (too “po-et-tickle“); not only that, I think I hear a bit of New York in Lawlor’s accent – which doesn’t bode well for his characterizations of Westerners. Jim Killavey (Jimcin) exhibits the worst flaws of American readers and I find him deadly dull.
* Grover Gardiner does a good job with two of Faulkner’s most difficult books to read aloud, Absalom, Absalom and The Sound and the Fury. The basic dryness of Gardiner’s voice and his understated delivery make Faulkner’s flights of verbal experimentation all the more powerful; at times Gardniner reminds me of tapes I’ve heard with Faulkner himself reading excerpts from his books.
Readers for Wharton’s The Age of Innocence
Posted 12 June 2018 – by Tom Looker
For our future reading of The Age of Innocence, I strongly recommend a wonderful British actor, David Horovitch (BBC Audiobooks), whom we’ve already heard read Anna Karenina. Horovitch’s American accents sound quite natural, as do his foreign voices. He narrates with skill and subtlety and evokes vivid characters. I’d don’t find Horovitch’s British narration at all jarring, since much of Wharton’s story deals with (various kinds of) aristocrats, and, in the final analysis, Wharton’s themes are as much transatlantic as they are of New York.
I’ll say more about the other readers (there are a lot of them) in the future.