Over the past few years I’ve occasionally given readings of A GOOD AMERICAN while it was still a work in progress.  Invariably at the Q & A part of the event, someone would put up their hand and ask, often a little tentatively, “Shouldn’t you be reading that with an American accent?”

It’s a fair question.

The answer is that yes, I should: the novel’s narrator, James Meisenheimer, is an American, through and through, born and raised in deepest, darkest Missouri.

The answer is also that no, I absolutely should not: my American accent is terrible, beyond strange, and if I tried it people would be so perplexed and offended that they wouldn’t pay any attention to what I was reading.  In terms of awful mangling, it’s somewhere beyond Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins, which is really saying something.

So, no surprise then that I was not invited to read for the audiobook version of A GOOD AMERICAN.

Instead the novel is going to be read by a gentleman named Gibson Frazier.  This is what he sounds like, reading the opening passage of the novel:


Just as every reader brings their own perspectives and experiences to a book, and so makes every act of reading a unique experience, so every person who auditioned to read for the audiobook interpreted the words on the page in a different way.  It was fascinating to hear the choices each person made – where to stop, where to pause, what to emphasize.  For me, it breathed fresh life into text that I had (as you might imagine) read more times than is probably strictly healthy.

It’s a funny sensation, though, hearing your words read by someone else.  Perhaps it shouldn’t be, given that the act of writing a book is itself an extended act of mimicry, especially when you choose a first person narrator to tell your story.  But the more I’ve listened to Mr. Frazier read this piece – this was his audition – the more I’ve grown to like it.  He has given my words a rich new dimension.  I’m looking forward to listening to more.

I confess I have no experience of audiobooks as a consumer and so I come to this all as a complete novice.  I’d love to know what you think.  Did you enjoy the reading?

Comments 14

  1. How fun! Is that how you pronounce Jette’s name? Never knew.

    I think it sounds lovely, but the key for me is whether it sounds the way you envisioned it sounding. When I heard Kirsten Potter read the prologue of The Weird Sisters, I thought, ‘That’s exactly how I would have read it!’ Very cool.

  2. That was wonderful! And between this and the extract, I’m really looking forward to reading your book (probably won’t do the audiobook, just because I don’t listen to them very often, just on very very long car trips!). I can only imagine how weird it is to hear another person read your words aloud –what a cool experience!

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    I didn’t have any preconceived ideas about what I was looking for, but there was something about this guy that just sounded right to me. He sounds authentic – unactorly, if you like. I liked that.

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    Of course, Eleanor, I only had one narrator to think about, but you had three, simultaneously!

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    Thanks, Hallam. I’m glad you like him!

  6. I have zero experience with audio books, and the first thing I thought (the writer in me) – before reading your comments after the sample audio, was, “I wonder if Alex liked this. I wonder how he reacted to someone reading words that mainly lived only in his mind, in his voice only.” I imagine it was quite an odd experience to listen to all the auditions (but exciting, too). I will say that I enjoyed every word of this audio excerpt and that the more your narrator read, the more I liked the sound of his voice. It was very soothing, but lively – if that’s possible. I agree with Julia. These two little morsels for us to sample have definitely whetted the appetite. Thank you. And can’t wait!

    PS – And how sweet that your son weighed in! Love it.

  7. I enjoyed that. There was a quality to the voice that gave enough interest to the piece without going over the top. That extract made me want to hear more.

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    Thank you Terry. I think it’s an incredibly difficult balancing act to keep a listener’s interest without going over the top, as you say. I think he does a great job.

    And yes, Melissa – I know what you mean by “soothing, but lively”! I think you captured it well. Thanks for your kind words.

  9. He does have a soothing voice — draws you in. A nice mix of emotion and change of pace without getting in the way of the listener’s own reactions. A new-to-me narrator.

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  11. Alex, your language is gorgeous (“fell on her like a shower of jasmine”–perfect!) and the tone of Mr. Frazier is so suited to the words. You must be so thrilled. So looking forward to reading/hearing more. Will the audiobook come out at the same time as the book release (I’m not familiar with this part of publication…)?

    And oh, how I thought Dick van Dyke’s MP’s accent was so right on when I was little–then I grew up and realized it was pretty ghastly (though Hollywood Maine accents aren’t much better)…but I will still admit a soft spot for that twinkling smile under all that carefully-applied soot!

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    Thanks, Erika – yes, the audiobook will be released at the same time as the book.

    I don’t think Dick van Dyke could get away with his accent these days. I’ve heard Americans do faultless British accents… and vice versa. Just not me, clearly!

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