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Aurelia’s Audio Adventures: A Shout-out to Sonnets

The Great Poets: Walt Whitman“Focus on something. It’ll steady your nerves,” my mother advised. That’s why I stared fixedly at Mr. Potter the Latin teacher throughout my 6th grade recitation of “Oh Captain, My Captain” by Walt Whitman. Mr. Potter smiled benignly. And when my nerves settled, the words rose, heated, as they had not when I’d practiced, surprising me into passion. In the years since, I’ve found that whether in the midst of joy or sorrow, wistfulness or contentment, poetry speaks intimately to the heart and mind. It also demands to be spoken.

White men who died long ago wrote most of the poetry I learned in school. I still turn to it because the guys, including Whitman, really could write. Naxos AudioBooks’ Great Poets series has a fine collection, including Garrick Hagon’s Earphones Award performance of Whitman’s best known poems in THE GREAT POETS: WALT WHITMAN. Read more…

Thankful for Great Narrators

Last Thursday was Thanksgiving in the U.S. And as we have been thinking about all that we’re thankful for, I’m reminded of how thankful I am for great stories, creative story writers, and amazing storytellers. When the craziness of the world just feels overwhelming, it’s a gift to be able to escape into the realms of these books that their creators and performers so generously share with us.

George Guidall by Joanna Perrin
Photo by Jo Anna Perrin

As audiobook fans know well, the narrator can make all the difference in a book. A so-so tale can become amazing, while a good one can fall flat, leaving the listener disappointed. Interpretation, nuance, and delivery are as important in an audiobook as a strong plot. For that reason, I wanted to pay homage today to narrators who have reminded me how I first learned to love stories and who make me love listening to them every day.

Anyone who follows my posts here should not be surprised to see George Guidall’s name on my list. He is, of course, the voice of Walt Longmire. Guidall is no stranger to mystery and crime novels. Some of his recordings in the genre include Tony Hillerman’s Leaphorn and Chee series, Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series, Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp novels, and Lilian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who books. His credits are far too lengthy to list here, but some other highlights of my personal listening history include his reading of Caleb Carr’s THE ALIENIST and Neil Gaiman’s AMERICAN GODS. Read more…

In Our Time: Immigration and the American Imagination of Itself

All the Agents and SaintsFrom time to time, we’ll be publishing blog posts about listening that can advance our understanding of current events. In this initial post in that vein, we’re talking about how the much-discussed topic of contemporary immigrants and immigration in the U.S. has been shaped by a history of national and popular beliefs about what it means to be an immigrant here and how immigration makes or breaks a culture some native-born Americans find comfortable.

Frankie Corzo reads Stephanie Elizondo Griest’s examination of cultural lives that straddle borders set by U.S. governments. As a Tejano, Griest discovers her own life has been impacted by the demarcation between Texas and Mexico that has cut between generations-long movements by family members. She also finds similarity in the experience of Mohawks whose home ranges were cut asunder by the border between Canada and the U.S. In Corzo’s performance of ALL THE AGENTS AND SAINTS: Dispatches from the U.S. Borderlands, listeners are given the opportunity to hear appropriately accented quotations from Griest’s informants and family members. Read more…

Behind the Mic: Kitchen Chinese

Narrator Emily Woo Zeller takes AudioFile readers Behind the Mic—and onto a streetcar in Hong Kong—to tell us more about her narration of KITCHEN CHINESE: Food, Family, and Finding Yourself and her connections to Ann Mah’s novel about Isabelle Lee, the heroine, who reconnects with her family and heritage.

“I’m currently in Hong Kong . . . Isabelle’s journey reminded me a lot of my time here and it’s wonderful.”—Narrator Emily Woo Zeller

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Robin’s Roundup: November 24 New Audiobook Reviews

One of the great traditions of the season is the many live performances that families can attend. The glamour and excitement of dance events are my favorite. Two new audiobooks we just reviewed, DANZA! and THE NUTCRACKER MICE, can put your youngsters in the mood . . . for Mexican folkloric music or the traditional Nutcracker ballet. And there’s a classic audiobook that should be on every dance-loving family listening list, BALLET STORIES. This classic from 2001 is an Earphones and Audie Award winner and is punctuated with Naxos AudioBooks’ signature music, and meticulous attention to detail. And for anyone who watched CALL THE MIDWIFE on PBS, Jenny Agutter (Sister Julienne) narrates this wonderful program. Read more…