In honor of the 2009 U.S. release of GOOD OMENS on audio, AudioFile's Editors spoke with the narrators of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett audiobooks. - 2009 Update
One of the best things about this work, says George, is to read books that he'd never read in a million years. This is probably more books than a lot of people read in a lifetime—much less perform. Reading everything from CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN to CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, George's facility with the spoken-art form is celebrated here and by his fans. While much of his work is published by Recorded Books, he also works for Penguin, Harper and Random House AudioBooks. He records six hours, three days a week—at the end of three hours, he says he's just warmed up. One of the most gratifying parts of his job is reading in front of an audience. It's humbling, too, because listeners tell him how much they appreciate his performances. George's favorite recent book is Wally Lamb's I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE . "It's so honest and so authentic. It talks to us on so many levels—love, relationships, wives, mothers, first impressions. It connected to me on a gut level."—[December 1998]
Maine or Montana—library visits and meeting audiobook devotees rank as personal highlights. He recommends Philip Roth's EXIT GHOST and Elmer Kelton's THE DAY IT NEVER RAINED to listeners, and Ron Suskind's THE ONE PERCENT DOCTRINE joins his ranks of Earphones-winning titles.
The range of topics and authors that George can bring alive continues to amaze us. Among this season's titles, there were westerns ( BLOOD KIN ), children's books (Henry & Mudge), history ( MAYFLOWER ), literary fiction ( EVERYMAN ), psychological suspense (KINGDOM OF SHADOWS), thrillers (COLD MOON), world classics (NIGHT)—the list keeps going. Out of the studio, George's program "The Art and Artifice of Audiobook Narration" takes him to libraries across the country, allowing him to meet his audience in person—an opportunity all too rare for narrators.
George has been traveling all over the country, meeting audiobook fans and no doubt making new ones, as his program, "The Art and Artifice of Audiobook Narration, An Evening With George Guidall," continues to deepen the relationship between listener and narrator. He is close to 850 recordings to date, and his performances this year include the Audie Finalist HORIZON STORMS by Kevin J. Anderson as well as THE HISTORY OF LOVE by Nicole Krauss, David Hosp's DARK HARBOR , and Jeffery Deaver's THE TWELFTH CARD , to name only a few.
It's hard to keep up with George's many new audiobooks, and he continues to add stellar performances to his long list of award-winning titles. The new DON QUIXOTE is very likely one of George's lifetime top performances, and it received both an AudioFile Earphones Award and a nomination as an Audie Awards Finalist. Suspense writer Alan Furst is getting attention from critics and also from listeners, who are thrilled with George's recordings of Furst titles, most recently DARK STAR . George has also been at the mic for Stephen King's Dark Tower series and for SONG OF SUSANNAH. We also gave Earphones to George's readings of Lawrence Block's HOPE TO DIE and Philip Roth's PATRIMONY . For bibliophile mystery fans, George added the latest John Dunning title, THE BOOKMAN'S PROMISE , to his audiography.
George has created a wonderful program, "An Evening with George Guidall, The Art and Artifice of Audiobook Narration," which he performs around the country. Meeting librarians and listeners, George says, is "a heartening experience, humbling and gratifying." Also new: the occasional interview between narrator and author offered at the end of his audiobooks. Look for this dividend in Jodi Picoult's SECOND GLANCE and in KINGDOM OF SHADOWS , as George discusses the book with author Alan Furst. Tackling a new translation of DON QUIXOTE , George collaborated with director/engineer Lynn Elllington to gain insight into Cervantes's classic. Stephen King made a special request for George to read THE GUNSLINGER , book 1 of King's Dark Tower series. And, to keep listeners current, as 2003 draws to an end, George has recorded more than 850 audiobooks.
George's prolific recordings span every subject from MARS AND VENUS to HENRY AND MUDGE . He has the knack of succeeding at each one. We asked what he considers this year's highlights. "Philip Roth's Zuckerman novels remain a high point. The narrative voice is so powerful and one that seems simply to take me along on an inevitable ride. Like a wave bringing me home. It makes the narrative process a complete joy."
Among George's favorite recordings this year were Steven Pressfield's TIDES OF WAR and GATES OF FIRE . George delved into Greek, European ( WAR OF THE RATS ), and American ( GATES OF THE ALAMO ) history through these superb historical novels. The strong narrative voices, beautiful use of language, and fully drawn characters are fuel for George's remarkable talents. Many listeners rely on George for some of the most chilling of international thrillers. CODE TO ZERO by Ken Follett was a Audie 2001 Finalist for Best Male Narrator. In THE KILL ARTIST by Daniel Silva, George spun the tale of all-too-real suspense.The recent success of AMERICAN GODS by Neil Gaiman unfolds for listeners an unusual travelogue and commentary on American culture.
The Audie Awards 2000 were a highlight for George; one of his favorite audiobooks, I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE , took the Best Unabridged Fiction award. That's two in a row for George because John Irving's A WIDOW FOR ONE YEAR took the Unabridged Fiction prize in 1999. AudioFile has also handed George five Earphones Awards this year. The books George most enjoyed this year were Franz Kafka's THE CASTLE and Marcel Proust's SWANN'S WAY . He told us that to be able to perform/ record these two mind-bending titles he had to "get inside the literary experience" and take a step beyond the intellectual reading of sentences on paper. These challenges just keep George eager for more. For Steven Pressfield's TIDES OF WAR , a historical account of the Greek general Alcibiades, his preparation notes included 26 pages of Greek words! Out of the recording booth, George tells us, he delights in participating in library programs because the audiences are so familiar with and enthusiastic about his craft.
As one of AudioFile's Golden Voices, George consistently receives Earphones Awards. A recent favorite: I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE —so many brilliant performances and so many characters.
Photo © Jo Anna Perrin
Photo by Jo Anna Perrin