#JIAM Simon Vance: narrator & video star

Audiobook memoirs? I asked Booklist Voice of Choice Simon Vance to share some thought about reading biographies when I was writing my Voices in My Head column titled “My Life, My Words, My Voice.”  Here’s what he said about narrating the lives of others:

I think the best so far for me was The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini – and he wrote it hundreds of years ago with no agenda of any kind (I believe). On the other hand biographies written ‘from the outside’ can be much more interesting and enlightening. A Very Irregular Head, the biography of Syd Barrett (Pink Floyd founder with psychological issues who just burned out) from last year was extraordinary and had me in a kind of funk for some months (having to do with the price of fame and its impact) – I loved that.

I have also just read a ‘fictional’ memoir by William Boyd Any Human Heart that has had a similar effect.  It’s strange, but often fictional accounts of lives give much more material for thought than someone’s real life experiences can. I am not a fan of reality ’TV – I get a fuller emotional experience from a well-crafted drama than from TMZ or its ilk.  The same applies in the book world. I’ll get more from a good author of fiction than I will from someone relating a series of mundane (or not) happenings in the life of some ‘star’ or other. I don’t condemn those who enjoy reading the (lurid?) details of a ‘real’ life – it’s a matter of taste and it’s just not for me… But, of course, if I’m asked, I will always enjoy recording it! 🙂

The preparation of reading another person’s life story is no different in the amount of work I do – I may have less because I don’t have to research names/places (as in Clapton: The Autobiography) as I lived through it and know the places intimately. I won’t try to make a statement by imitating the voice, but as I do for fictional characters that I give voice to, I do ‘feel’ the persona and that may or may not influence the style of the read. Some parts of the Syd Barrett biography made me angry, at the way he’d been treated by so-called ‘fans’ and some of those around him.  It was extraordinarily sad in places, but no more so than a well written fiction can be at times.  When a book triggers an emotional response, that’s a high point – it’s why we go to the theater after all.

And also why we listen to audiobooks, especially when they’re narrated by a master such as Simon Vance. But his talents extend beyond the recording booth – if you’ve never stopped by his website, it’s high time. Simon has taken his video blog to new heights during June is Audiobook Month (#JIAM2011), with extra-special editions of his posted on YouTube – one for each day of JIAM! When do you have time to record audiobooks, video star Simon???

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About the Author:

Mary Burkey is an independent library consultant in Columbus (OH). An enthusiastic audiophile, she has served on all four of ALA's audiobook award committees as well as the Audies. In addition to writing the "Voices in My Head" column for Booklist, she is the author of Audiobooks for Youth: A Practical Guide to Sound Literature (ALA, 2013). Follow her on Twitter at @mburkey.

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