Tuesday, June 1, 2010

IT

I've been noting with no small amount of gratification the positive comments on Audible for Steven Weber's reading of Stephen King's IT. We took a bit of a risk on this one--Weber only had two audiobooks to his credit (albeit very good ones), and our co-publishers at Penguin Audio were a bit skeptical, but it turned out to be a big win for everyone. Weber approached the thousand-page project with a gusto that was infectious throughout the entire process. Yuri Rasovsky, who directed the production, noted after the first session how impressed he was with Steven's preparation, commitment and sense of humor, which never flagged during the fifteen-day schedule. I'm told that after one particularly long and grueling day, Steven flung open the door of the booth and staggered into the control room, shouting, "Blood! I'm covered with...BLOOD!"

Weber's reading is an object-lesson in successful risk-taking. His depiction of the Denbrough family's collapse into silence and grief is heart-rending, particularly the scene in which young Bill tries to lighten the mood by telling a joke--an attempt that falls achingly flat. (Bill's pronounced stutter, which could become tedious in the hands of a lesser narrator, is marvelously rendered.) By contrast, the scenes with Pennywise in his various incarnations are ratcheted up to a level that has to be heard to be believed--and they work.

It's refreshing to encounter a narrator who doesn't seem aware of the "rules." It's not a tidy, pre-packaged read. It's a wild ride, full of unanticipated line readings and emotional about-faces. That's not to say it isn't faithful to the text--he is very observant of King's stage directions and character cues. But he never shies away from the larger-than-life (one is tempted to say, outlandish) quality of the whole enterprise. And while there's never any question that he grasps the size and scope of the story, Weber never gets ahead of himself. Every scene is given it's full value. Nothing is rushed or glossed over for the sake of efficiency. This "in-the-moment" quality, rather than slowing the book down, actually makes it feel shorter. Even King's notoriously digressive passages take on an absorbing quality in Weber's rendition. Everything about this performance--the vivid delineation of each and every character, the near-improvisational approach to the text, and above all, the drive and consistency he brings to this most unwieldy of King's novels--makes this a recording that every narrator could learn from. I know I have.

3 comments:

  1. What a generous and thoughtful review of another narrator's work. I'm definitely interested, and as a "new" narrator I especially appreciate your observation about how not playing by the rules can make a read seem shorter, rather than longer. That definitely resonates. Great music also vanquishes time; it makes sense to me that the music of a great reader should have the same effect.
    Here's to taking risks!
    Jim Meskimen

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  2. This prompted me to peruse about half of The Drowning Pool – 133 pages or so – to see how many similes I could count. (I’m using the Vintage Crime Black Lizard edition from May 1996). I counted thirty four and no doubt missed a few. I haven’t done the legwork, but I think some of the later books might have a slightly higher ratio. That’s a lot, but in any case I would argue that many of Macdonald’s similes are so strong that they infinitely enrich the work. Not only that – they are so strong that they put many “serious” writers of fiction to shame.
    http://postmoderndeconstructionmadhouse.blogspot.com/2014/11/ross-macdonald-drowning-pool.html#.VGwznDSUeRZ

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