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?