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Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian

“Often when you’re reading a 400-page book, you might not catch every nuance in dialogue or rhythm. In an audiobook, a good actor will make sure you hear them.”

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Talking with Chris Bohjalian

For as long as he can remember, Chris Bohjalian has loved stories—reading them, writing them and hearing them. So it was with great pleasure that the 39-year-old author discovered the world of audiobooks a couple years ago. He was especially grateful because, as a relative newcomer to rural Vermont, he found himself spending huge amounts of time in the car. With audiobooks, though, it was like having a storyteller in the passenger seat riding along with him.

“I fell in love with it,” Bohjalian says. “What a great notion. You get to hear a great novel and have it dramatically presented to you.” He says he’s struck by how an expert reader can enhance his experience of a book. “Very often when you’re reading a 400-page book, you might not catch every idiosyncratic nuance in dialogue, or perhaps you’ll miss some of the rhythms and some of the narrative paragraphs. In an audiobook, a good actor will make sure you hear them.”

Bohjalian is in that rare sub-category of audiobook listener who has gotten to experience his own works in the audiobook format. His seventh novel, TRANS-SISTER RADIO, will be out in May and, like some of his previous works, will also be available on tape. Bohjalian has been nothing but pleased with the recordings made from his novels. MIDWIVES, his last book, an Oprah selection, has two unabridged recorded versions, one read by Kate Burton, the other by Valerie Leonard. Bohjalian was equally pleased with both. “I’m always flattered,” he says. “I’m flattered that these actors do such terrific jobs interpreting so many different characters, and I’m flattered that they’re doing it with my work. The interpretations of the actresses are different,” he says. “But both bring Connie Danforth alive for me.”

Bohjalian even enjoys the abridgments of his novels, although not without some embarrassment. “I’ll tell you why,” he says with a laugh. “You discover just how lean or fatty your prose really is. When you discover that your 115,000-word novel can survive admirably in a 55,000-word abridgment, as a novelist, you have to be humbled.” —Michael Ollove

JUN/JUL 00

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