Tuesday, February 14, 2012
The Return of The Stand
Well, it's out on Audible today--Stephen King's The Stand. This is not the edited version I recorded twenty-five years ago, it's the complete, uncut edition published in 1990, all forty-eight hours of it! It took four weeks to record, and I had to pace myself so I wouldn't sound fatigued or thread-bare at any point. I'm pleased with the recording, though I'll be interested to see how it holds up against the earlier version in the memories of King devotees. The old version was only available on cassette and has been out of print for a decade or more. I still get emails from people asking if I have a copy they could borrow and duplicate for themselves. Alas, no, I never got one. But now there's no need. The new version is complete, and in my humble opinion I'm a better narrator than I was twenty-five years ago, so I was delighted to have a chance to re-record it.
There are few better writers for audiobook narration than Stephen King. He gives you all the right cues, creates wonderful characters, keeps the story moving and injects emotional twists and surprises at every corner. Never a dull moment in the booth with this guy.
The odd thing is, as I read the uncut version in preparation, I found that I remembered very little of the story and the characters. The opening scene remains vivid--the clunky old Chevy containing the first victims of the superflu plowing into a lonely little gas station in rural Texas. And I remember Randall Flagg (who could forget Randall Flagg?). But beyond that most of the book felt completely new to me. Perhaps it was the added material that threw me off, I don't know. But it's just as well, since there was no temptation to replicate any voices or characters or moods from the earlier recording. What you hear is as fresh as last month, not a recycled rendition from 25 years ago.
I'll be interested to see what "the critics" say. The proponderance of male characters seemed to hail from the Midwest or Southwest, so there were an awful lot of "good ol' boys" to sort through and make distinguishable. The most difficult characters for me were Harold and Frannie. Harold is a pimply, overweight, pompous-sounding 16-year-old, not an easy person to replicate. And eighteen-year-old Frannie is the emotional core of the book, enormously smart and feisty, but extremely vulnerable--and pregnant. I played around with a Maine accent for her and it sounded just awful, so I let my native East Coast tones predominate. A fifty-five year old man is already handicapped in this regard, and I didn't want her to come off as a caricature. So she's voiced in a pretty straight-forward manner. I gave her father and some of the other Ogunquit characters a dose of down-east, so hopefully that will placate the die-hards.
My favorite character, of course, is Tom Cullen (who doesn't love Tom Cullen?). In the uncut version he really gets fleshed out, and it's truly wonderful to experience his transformation from a fool to a hero. In one critical scene I took a risk that, under normal circumstances, I would have avoided like...well, like the plague. But to do other than what I did seemed like such a cop-out that I took the plunge. I'm curious to see if anyone even notices--and whether they like it or hate it.
But by far the biggest, most overwhelming challenge, of all the challenges in a story so fraught with them, was that of coming up with seventy-plus ways of saying, "NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" It seems that every character, at some point in the book, shouts or screams or bellows or rasps the word, "NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!"
Anyway, it was a terrific experience and it's great to have the story out there again for everyone to enjoy.