December 03, 2005

Words to Live By

So earlier this week I was down in L.A. recording acoustic versions of five songs that are referenced in King Dork, the book.

It was at the Books on Tape headquarters in Woodland Hills, CA. (The audio version of King Dork is going to be on Listening Library, but they're both Random House companies.) They record lots of audio books at this location. I looked in on a session for the audio version of a nonfiction book about the mystique of The Oyster. (That's not a little known Batman arch-villain gastropod - it's about actual oysters, and it was being read with great drama by a reader with a Craig McClure-esque Announcing Voice: "...the size of an oyster depends upon the quality of its food..." I fancy it's something like How the Oyster Changed the World and Saved Civilization or maybe simply The Romance of the Oyster, but I don't know for certain. What I heard was pretty gripping in any case.) You know how they have gold records? Well, there was a gold cassette tape on the wall, for the audio book of The Da Vinci Code.

Now I've listened to a lot of audio books in my day. I've got into the habit of listening to them while trying to fall asleep, which can be difficult for me; they really help. I get them from the library. One hilarious and annoying characteristic of the older Books on Tape books is that a huge chunk of side one is taken up by this lengthy explanation of what a cassette is, and instructions for what to do in case of cassette malfunction: "...take it in your hand, and rap it smartly against a table or desk..." Plus they read every single word, including the copyright notice and lots of other extraneous stuff. It's quite funny the first few times you hear it. I mentioned this to the producer of my audio book, and he said they have been in the process of editing out the "front end" of a lot these books, but that many of those still in libraries date back to the origins of the whole Books on Tape concept when it was felt that people had to be informed about the ins and outs of the then-novel cassette format, and where audio books were conceived of as audible replications of the text of books for a blind or illiterate audience. It's usually an elderly person simply reading the book out loud into a tape recorder, like your grandma reading you a bedtime story when you're five.

Nowadays, they think of audio books as dramatic performances in their own right, not just audible texts. The readers are "artists" who do voices for the characters and try to evoke the mood of the story. It's really quite different from a person reading a story out loud: the reader impersonates the narrator. They haven't yet chosen a reader for King Dork, but I'm pretty curious to see how they'll end up making it into an audio performance, because in my mind it's still a written text. I don't know why, but it feels slightly freaky to imagine someone "doing" Tom Henderson, the narrator.

Anyhow, the songs recorded were "King Dork," "Gooey Glasses," "I'm Still Not Done Loving You, Mama," "Thinking of Suicide," and "I Wanna Ramone You." Three of them will be on an advance promotional tschotske for booksellers; the full slate will be "bonus tracks" for the audio book.

Posted by Dr. Frank at December 3, 2005 03:37 AM | TrackBack

I remember having an audio cassette of James Earl Jones reading "the 3 Little Pigs", "the Little Engine That Could" and one other children's story that eludes me.

Ithink Toby McGuire or Topher Grace would make great readers for "King Dork", if the character is supposed to be a less depressed, but more "dorky" version of Holden Caulfield, as I'm imagining he is.......

Posted by: Zaphod at December 3, 2005 04:03 AM

keen. i can't wait for the book. the notion of a gold-plated casette gracing the wall of an important office somewhere is classic. the overlooked golden boy of an obscure genre that will never hang above a urinal at the hard rock cafe.


Posted by: luke black at December 3, 2005 04:52 AM

I am so glad to hear you've recorded those songs. I want a copy of "I Want To Ramone You" so bad!!!!

Posted by: Jim Testa at December 3, 2005 05:23 AM

I second Jim, that is a kickass song.

Posted by: marie at December 3, 2005 07:59 AM

"where audio books were conceived of as audible replications of the text of books for a hearing-impaired or illiterate audience."

I hope those things got pretty loud.

I haven't heard any of the new songs, but "I wanna Ramone You" is a hell of a name. "I'm Still Not Done Loving You, Mama" is pretty good too. Can I get the songs without buying the audio book? I already ordered the visuo book.

Posted by: josh at December 3, 2005 02:36 PM

You gotta get Jim Dale, he did such a good job on the Harry Potter books on tape.

Posted by: the h girl at December 3, 2005 03:28 PM

Oops - how embarrassing. Of course, Josh, I meant "visually impaired." Sheesh... editing...

Posted by: Dr. Frank at December 3, 2005 03:51 PM

ALthough I always look in the front to see if there is a Library of Congress list of subjects. They are kind of kooky.

Posted by: slickdpdx at December 5, 2005 03:36 AM

Hey, check this out.

a good link on the year in Political Correctness. Pretty good stuff.
My favorite:

"6. Deferred Success as a euphemism for the word fail. The Professional Association of Teachers in the UK considered a proposal to replace any notion of failure with deferred success in order to bolster students self-esteem."

Wow. Still, at least we can openly admit that husbands and wives sleep in the same bed.

Posted by: josh at December 5, 2005 03:13 PM

So I guess there go my hopes of you doing the audio book reading yourself

Posted by: Jody at December 7, 2005 08:13 PM

Yeah, Jody, for various reasons it was decided to leave it to a pro.

Posted by: Dr. Frank at December 7, 2005 08:50 PM
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