Celebrity audiobooks: The good and the bad
I’m not usually the biggest audiobook fan, except for when I’m driving ever since that terrible time I tried to balance The Stand on my steering column, but even I know that much of the effectiveness of cassette-tape oration is dependent on who’s doing the reading. Jeremy Irons, for example, could read a bound collection of Chinese takeout menus and I would find it engrossing. Sylvester Stallone narrating Jane Eyre, or Fran Drescher narrating anything, not so much. And it’s probably a plus that Stephen Hawking didn’t do his own Brief History of Time.
The good people over at the website Whose Voice Is That? have put together a helpful list of the best and worst matches of celebrity lector to material. For example: “Not Scary Enough: Joe Mantegna reads Stephen King’s Thinner”, “Too Scary: Willem Dafoe reads Stephen King’s The Langoliers.”
I think an audiobook’s success also depends on the listener’s own situation. Harlan Ellison’s “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman read, or more likely frantically yelled in 324 voices, by Robin Williams is probably not good if you’re trying to relax. Conversely, listening to James Earl Jones read the Bible while operating heavy machinery would be dangerous both to yourself and those around you. And while Christopher Walken may be a good fit for something like this, something like this doesn’t work as well. Oftentimes the best person for the job isn’t a celebrity, per se. Jim Dale has done a fantastic job with the Harry Potter series, while Brad Pitt only detracted from Cormac McCarthy’s beautiful All the Pretty Horses by pronouncing “jefe” like it was a brand of peanut butter. What do you think? Are there any celebrity/book match-ups you think are just crying out to be made a reality? Any that should never, ever, under any circumstances, come to fruition?