Jeff VanderMeer interviews Bronson Pinchot about audiobooks
July 24, 2014 10:01 PM   Subscribe

"I gently lay my mind on the text as if the text is a Ouija board and let it move me around. And my eye circles the page precisely the way your eye circles the landscape when you are anxiously looking for someone in a crowd: You scan for red hair, for a hat, for someone towering above the others, whatever it is. I pick up adverbs out of the corner of my eye. "How wonderful to see you, Jeff" may be the opening of a chunk of dialogue that ends with "... she muttered hostilely." You look for that like a helicopter rescue team looking for a dehydrated Cub Scout in the mountains."
posted by colt45 (21 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, great interview. Now I want to read Matterhorn (or, I suppose, listen to it).
posted by misfish at 11:05 PM on July 24, 2014

Caribou Island and Authority are now also on my list.
posted by misfish at 11:10 PM on July 24, 2014

Bronson Pinchot seems like a good narrator. Best by far I've ever heard is James Marsters for The Dresden Files. Jeff VanderMeer, on the other hand, based on reading as much of Annihilation as I could tolerate, is a terrible, terrible writer.
posted by cthuljew at 1:13 AM on July 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've gone deep enough down the audiobook rabbit hole that I seek out narrators nearly as much as authors; the fact that the first time I did this I found one of my favorite series (Seanan McGuire's October Daye books, read by metafilter's own Mary Robinette Kowal) certainly helps. I'm a big fan of Tim Curry's reading of the Abhorsen trilogy-- that man can voice the hell out of the undead-- and the two narrators that do Rachel Hartman's Seraphina work beautifully together, especially since they both have to sing.
posted by NoraReed at 3:00 AM on July 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yeah, Pinchot pulls off that super-tricky "adult man with deeper voice speaks as a teenage girl" thing without sounding like Strong Bad narrating a Teen Girl Squad episode on Hard Magic.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:34 AM on July 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

I listen to a lot of audiobooks but haven't listened to anything narrated by Pinchot recently. I tend to agree with his view on writers reading their own writing ( as evidenced by William Gibson's reading of Neuromancer ). Good interview.

It seems entirely reasonable to seek out the narrators as often as favorite authors ( and quietly curse the publishers when they choose poorly ). It's another indicator of quality.

Recommended: John Lee, David Thorn ( perfect choice for Jonathan Stroud's 'Heroes of the Valley' ), Kate Reading, Simon Jones, Simon Vance, Simon Prebble ( ...all the Simons, apparently ), Shelly Fraiser, Robert Ian McKenzie ( narrator of many books by Charles Stross! ), Adjoa Andoh, Anton Lesser, and Robertson Dean ( who will scare you to death reading Lovecraft ).
posted by Kikkoman at 5:37 AM on July 25, 2014

I don't listen to a lot of fiction audiobooks, but loved Jim Dale's work on the Harry Potter series. Now I want to seek out something that Pinchot has done.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 7:14 AM on July 25, 2014

I'm impressed this post has been up so long with no Perfect Strangers joke.

Or, for bonus points, Beverly Hills Cop
posted by Chrysostom at 7:20 AM on July 25, 2014

That was interesting! I read an article years ago about volunteer readers who do audio books for the blind, including text books and such. Some of it incredibly dry, some very interesting to the reader.

I wonder what a reader like Pinchot or Jim Dale - or a lesser known reader - would get paid. Anyone have any idea?
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:40 AM on July 25, 2014

oh man Simon Prebble is truly the best!
posted by rebent at 7:45 AM on July 25, 2014

The books I've listened to read by Bronson are Matterhorn, Stealing the General, Neutrino Hunters, Everything That Rises Must Converge. Matterhorn stands out as completely immersive into Vietnam. It's a different experience from movies or books. In the case of Matterhorn I think the audio added to the book, made it even better. This doesn't always happen so it's great when everything comes together. Stealing the General is also pretty good, the other two I didn't like so much in audio, better left read.

Props for an audiobook FPP. The one bright light in the publishing business growing exponentially.
posted by stbalbach at 7:48 AM on July 25, 2014

would get paid. Anyone have any idea?

From Wikipedia:
Narrators are usually paid on a finished recorded hour basis, meaning if it took 20 hours to produce a 5 hour book, the narrator is paid for 5 hours, thus providing an incentive not to make mistakes.[20] Depending on the narrator they are paid US$150 per finished hour to US$400 (as of 2011).[20]
posted by stbalbach at 7:53 AM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I now know, purely as a result of being assigned nonfiction, that all metals in our bodies and in the planet are the result of particles from exploding stars. Sometimes that gets me through the day.

How wonderful he is; so thoughtful and insightful about what he's doing. Also kinda hot, now that he's gone gray.

What a great post, thanks.
posted by suelac at 8:41 AM on July 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also, the best audiobook voicers I've heard so far are Patrick Tull (who recorded all of the Aubrey-Maturin books), Stephen Fry (he did the British version of the Harry Potter novels), and Stephen Briggs (who records all of Pratchett's work). They all do a great job of conveying the action and distinguishing the characters through tone and accent.

I've listened to a lot of audiobooks, and I've become kind of a snob: I find it very difficult to follow some books if the reader makes little or no effort to distinguish between the characters' voices (I'm looking at you, Wil Wheaton--Redshirts is so heavily dependent on dialog, and I had no idea who was speaking most of the time).

The best readers seem to be people with classical voice training or a lot of theater behind them.
posted by suelac at 8:47 AM on July 25, 2014

Really engaging interview. I especially loved the part about the importance of the dedication and delivering it right.
posted by mixedmetaphors at 10:07 AM on July 25, 2014

I'm impressed this post has been up so long with no Perfect Strangers joke.

All I could think of was "Wait wait wait - the guy who played Balki? Balki...renovates houses??"
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:53 AM on July 25, 2014

I've read Authority and Annihilation out loud and it left me wondering about audio book versions. There are places in both books where the prose shambles along through cobbles of words. Words that end one sentence start the next.

I find it very difficult to follow some books if the reader makes little or no effort to distinguish between the characters' voices

This might be a problem with the Southern Reach books since the author makes little effort to distinguish characters' voices. In many places in Authority there is no indication which is speaking during an encounter between two characters and the lines might have come from either. I wonder how Bornson will do with this considering his Ouija board methodology.
posted by bdc34 at 12:17 PM on July 25, 2014

"adult man with deeper voice speaks as a teenage girl" thing without sounding like Strong Bad narrating a Teen Girl Squad episode on Hard Magic.

The most spectacular failure mode of this is Simon Vance's voice for Eleanor Bold in Barchester Towers.
posted by winna at 12:31 PM on July 25, 2014

It's frustrating when a reader's performance is so bad/different from one's own imagining that it renders a favorite author's works off-limits. I'm a huge Lois McMaster Bujold fan, but the excerpts I've heard of the Vorkosigan audiobooks have been terrible. Wrong emphasis, wrong intonation, that's not how you pronounce Ivan dammit… it just went on.
posted by Lexica at 5:07 PM on July 25, 2014

I had a very annoying experience listening to The Sharing Knife by Lois McMaster Bujold - I really liked the books, but I listened to the audiobook first, so I hear the reader in my head when I read the sequels, and I found her narration really distracting. She does not sound like anyone usually sounds in my head.
posted by misfish at 5:30 PM on July 25, 2014

There's a great (and very candid) Random Roles interview with Pinchot over at the AV Club that's considered one of the best installments in that series.
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:15 PM on July 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

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