June 16-22, 2005
The aud ball
"Audio is a different experience from print," says Karen Huyser, president of audiobook publisher Bolinda Audio. For example, you might actually finish Ulysses if you listened to the abridged CD. Skillful narrators and music make Joyce's notoriously difficult classic easier to digest. Huyser promises: "It's not cheating."
Just ask everyone else at the Audies held June 3 at Tavern on the Green. The awards for the audiobook industry were handed out at a black-tie dinner hosted by postmodern writer and narrator Neil Gaiman. "It's the moment of intersection between theater and the publishing world," he says, "where the Tonys meet the National Book Awards." Maybe. It's certainly true no one was watching. Audies were given out in 31 categories, including Audiobook of the Year, which went President Bill Clinton's self-narrated My Life.
Authors often record their own books, says Gaiman (whose reading of his own work Coraline was nominated last year), and when outside narrators are used, the author approves them. This year's winner Johnny Heller says he "goo-goo-ga-ga-ed on the phone to the author for 45 minutes" to win the title role in The Happiest Toddler in the World. What does the Audie mean to Heller? "It validates my decision to wear a tux tonight."
Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva of The Kitchen Sisters flew in from San Francisco for the ceremony. "I consider myself a siren luring people into the world of sound," says Nelson. Their Audie-winning Lost and Found Sound and Beyond was adapted from a book adapted from their radio program on NPR's All Things Considered, a circle that makes them laugh.
Gaiman envisions an exciting future for this genre. He recently ripped several audiobooks onto his iPod and then played it on shuffle. "One minute you're listening to Seamus Heaney reading Beowulf and the next it's Jim Broadbent reading Winnie the Pooh. It's brilliant."