Flashback Friday: 1984

In Monday’s feature, The Pink Chair: Where’s My 1984, Narrated by Simon Vance?, I talked a little bit about rights and mentioned that Blackstone Audio, Inc. currently holds the exclusive rights to the straight narration of 1984 (by George Orwell.) Though you can’t get the audiobook as narrated by Simon Vance, I happen to think that the audiobook produced by Blackstone is pretty good! In fact, it’s one of the titles in my personal Pantheon of All-Time Great Audiobooks! Some other people think it’s pretty good too because it was a 2008 Audie Award Finalist in the category of Classics. LOL, I always love validation of my good tastes!
I listened to the audio in January of 2009 and below is my journal entry from that time:

1984

by George Orwell
narrated by Simon Prebble
11.40 Hours

> For those who have not read “1984” or read it and forgotten it, “1984” is a novel published in 1949 about the totalitarian society that George Orwell imagined in place by 1984. Superficially, it is an expression of the post-war zeitgeist, which was still tainted with the bitter after-taste of Nazism, Fascism and, confronted with new fears of Stalinism and The Atomic Age. On a more academic level, it is a political treatise about citizen complacency and, the mechanics and motives for power. The story itself contains finely wrought tension and sere descriptions of time, place, and character. There is a horrific quality to the story and you need to remind yourself that, this is a work of fiction. This is a near definitive narration of a novel, SP shaping the text with nuance and boldness alike. Small narration and production issues prevented me from grading this higher: A slight lisp tended to spike against the eardrums a bit, causing me to change out headsets to more forgiving speakers; The narrator sounded a slightly rushed in the final tracks; The overall recording is mastered at a very high volume causing me to lower the gain and; finally, there wasn’t an auditory cue to delineate the end of the story from the Appendix (even a longer pause would have been nice.)
GRADE: A-

Other Stuff: I borrowed a MP3-CD edition of 1984 from Blackstone Audio, Inc. The production issues mentioned above may have since been or probably were taken care of since then; so you need to take my comments with a grain of salt :-/

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Rip Van Winkle

Rip Van Winkle

by Washington Irving
narrated by Christian Rummel
.65 hours
“Rip Van Winkle” is an iconic piece of American literature, ingrained in our cultural memory so deeply that it has become a part of American folklore. Surprisingly, “Rip Van Winkle” is not a novel, not even a novella, but rather a short story that has achieved this iconic status. The basic premise of the story is that Rip Van Winkle, a kind but indifferent farmer and husband, heads to the hills one afternoon to hunt. While traipsing through the Hudson River Valley, he comes across the mid-eighteenth century version of a kegger and indulges in some particularly potent brew. Afterward, he settles down into a postprandial nap and, when he awakes, he discovers that he has been asleep for quite a bit longer than he had expected :-/ Despite it’s short length, “Rip Van Winkle” manages to convey time, place and character with incredible acuity, making even the implausible appear like realistic fiction.

Christian Rummel delivers Washington Irving’s words at a fast pace, just shy of being hurried and, with a nod of inflection here and there. The narration ignores the tenor of some key scenes, draining the story of tension. Audible.com is marketing this short story as children’s fare, which could have informed the narrator’s choices; but it is unfortunate that those choices condescend to children rather than expose them to a great story’s timbre and texture.

Other Stuff: “Rip Van Winkle” is a free dnload for members at audible.com

This book qualifies for the Where Are You Reading? Challenge hosted by Sheila at her blog, Book Journey. “Rip Van Winkle” is set in the Hudson River Valley in New York.

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