“I’m embarking on post-graduate work here.” Anita Roy Dobbs on Amphibian and more… #jiam2011

Here’s my challenge for you, discerning readers and listeners of fine audio literature:  I challenge you to read Anita’s oozing-with-charisma answers to my questions below, and try to resist her innumerable charms.

Actually, don’t try that.  You won’t be able to, you won’t want to, and you might hurt yourself in the process.  Presenting Anita Roy Dobbs, narratrix of Amphibian, by Carla Dunn.

Miette Elm: First off, what are you up to? What titles have you recently wrapped, what are you in the middle of, and how’s it going?
Anita Roy Dobbs:  I just finished my first audiobook, Amphibian, in time for the latest Literary Fiction collection. You know how we learn most from our mistakes? Well, that was graduate-level learning, oy. I’m so glad that it was Amphibian I lived with for those months of spending far too much time on every minute of the recording. I long to sit down with folks who have read (or listened to!) the book and discuss Carla Gunn’s gifted juggling of themes and tone, her storytelling that’s profound enough for (older) children (watch out, it features the F-word) and entertaining enough for adults. It is a lovely book – humorous, touching, multi-faceted, warm – to have labored over.

But next up is the first in a series of four books – a series I’ve already lived with for over a decade. If I’m to manage all four, I’ll need a quantum leap in efficiency. Mmm, literally. It’s Fire Logic, first in the Elemental Logic Series by Laurie J. Marks, a fantasy rooted in modern problems, staked on vivid, strong-frail characters. I’m trying to be succinct but likely sound markety, eh? It has a challenging cast of characters needing distinct voices. That means I’m embarking on post-graduate work here. Oh, the mistakes I’m about to make!

So it’s going like this: I work more than full-time and narrate between leaf-blowers in the evenings, mornings, and weekends. I’m halfway through switching all my recording gear and (if the software ever arrives) learning a completely new (and appealingly geeky) recording technique. Hmm, better get back to those tutorials I have bookmarked…

Anita Roy Dobbs

Anita Roy Dobbs

ME: Anything stand out as the funniest sentence or paragraph you’ve narrated?
ARD: Nothing of that sort, but what that question brings to mind is an … awkward chapter I read for LibriVox.org in a book I wasn’t familiar with. I discovered that a whole section was racist – I was going to say dreadfully racist, but that suggests there’s another kind, like graciously racist. I wanted to state a disclaimer, skip the passages, back out on the chapter, anything but read it like a proper narrator. So I went flat, or sour-flat, or whatever affect that bad taste in my mind caused in my mouth. And even today, my skin crawls that I read those passages into the public domain. (I think I should have backed out.)

ME: Care to share a memorable comment you’ve received about your voice or narration talents?
ARD: I’ll cheat a little on this one, too. I once received an email about something I’d read for LibriVox, and it seemed to say that the writer was so, mmm, responsive to something that I’d read, because of the way I read it, that he couldn’t express it just then, but it was important and he would try again later. He didn’t. So I could be wrong in my interpretation! But here’s the cheating part — I have had what I will clumsily call important responsiveness to a handful of narrators, or even a hand-not-quite-full. Tip of the pinnacle for me is Nigel Planer. His sheer intelligence as a reader – every instant spot-on, every skill of characterization mastered beyond mastery – just rivets me each time I re-re-re-re-re-listen to every recording he’s made. So that’s my strange and puzzling compliment to my world’s greatest narrator: I am importantly responsive to your narration, Nigel Planer, and wish I could express myself as intelligently as you narrate (or do ANYthing that intelligently).

ME: What are the world’s top 5 sounds? What are the worst?
ARD: Erg. Hmmm … after long thought:

Top: the tiny teeny itsy sounds a newborn makes in the first days; my mother’s voice as remembered; wind or rain in a full canopy of leaves; whale song; “Ah-ha!”

Worst sounds I’ve heard: that retching sound when nothing will come up but must; screeching brakes (typically on buses I’ve been waiting for); any wounded animal (including us); patronizing, dismissive, marginalizing tones in all their variety; spiteful hatred, snarled or raged.

And I am delighted to report that in Amphibian, young Phineas William Walsh will tell you precisely what the world’s top five most disliked sounds are, as discovered by researchers.

Worst sounds I’ve never heard: cries of terror; near-to-hand explosions; a tsunami wave crashing / tornado winds approaching / hurricane overhead / massive earthquake rumbling / volcano errupting.

ME: Of any book ever published, what’s your dream title to narrate (even if your voice wouldn’t be a good match)?
ARD:  How I wish I knew every book ever published. Wow. That’s a pauser. Since I was a child, standing in the library — the little, little, local, two-room library in Moundsville, West Virginia — I’ve enjoyed the recurring fleeting fantasy of absorbing alllllll those books into my knowing.

So I think, if I must narrow it down to one title, it’s the Encyclopædia Britannica. And I’m pretty unsuited for that. 🙂

Anita’s first title for Iambik, Carla Dunn’s Amphibian (published in print by Coach House Books), is available for only $6.99 as part of our Third Literary Fiction collection.  Along with all Iambik titles, it can be yours at a 50% discount throughout June 2011 by entering the code #jiam2011 when prompted at checkout.