Earlier this week, I read a blog post from Brandon Sanderson that mentioned a website called Graphic Audio. A regular audiobook involves a narrator (or several) reading the text of the book, unabridged. Graphic Audio productions, on the other hand, act out the book, complete with sound effects and interactive dialog, etc. The tagline of the website is “a movie in your mind.”
Prior to learning about this website, I’d heard of a couple audiobooks that were more than just straight readings. The audio version of Hugo Cabret, for instance, replaces the extensive artwork of the book with sound effects to get across the story in a similar way as the art. While I haven’t listened to either, I know there are dramatizations that audio-act versions of Gaiman’s Neverwhere and Wells’ War of the Worlds (the latter produced via radio early last century). I’d guess these two are similar to those put out by Graphic Audio. Similar concept, anyway.
I listened to the preview of the Graphic Audio version of A Way of Kings, included in Sanderson’s blog post. It was an interesting experience – though admittedly, I’d rather read or hear about a spear being thrust through someone’s leg, rather than listen to the sound of it as it happens. I’m squeamish that way. The thing is, I’m still boggled by the term “a movie in your mind.” Because really, isn’t that what a normal audiobook is?
Audiobooks aren’t for everyone, I know. I love them myself, but I’m also very picky about them. The right narrator is crucial (example: I don’t listen to YA on audio very often because the readers tend to portray teens as perpetually whiny in a very unrealistic way). The ability to listen at the right speed is crucial (no way in hell that I’m going to listen to the excruciatingly slow pace of most audios – I want them to speak at regular dialog speed!). The right kind of book is crucial (in other words, it has to create a movie in my mind).
When I read a book, I get lost in the world of that book. My brain begins to imagine the things that are happening, so that I barely see the words on the page**. When I listen to an audiobook, a similar thing happens, except that absolutely no part of my brain is focusing on words on a page. It’s more similar to daydreaming, except someone else is guiding the dreams. The right kind of book makes a wonderful mind-movie. (Notably, this is why I don’t listen to most literary novels on audio, unless they are performed instead of read, and why I do listen to nonfiction on audio, because I have a difficult time seeing beyond page-words when I read nonfiction.)
I would love to experience a few more of those Graphic Audios. I imagine they’d be a fascinating experience, and quite different from reading, audiobooking (that should be a word), and movie-watching. I’ve long wanted to try out the dramatization of War of the Worlds, despite not liking the book itself. I’m all for different medias and experiences helping to create a rounder understanding of a work of art! Though perhaps I’ll try with a book that isn’t going to make me squeamish. I vehemently do not want to hear the sounds of ripping entrails or characters vomiting…
Decided to go kinda crazy at my library this week. Some of these books are from new-to-me authors. Some are authors I’d like to try again. Some are books I’ve never heard of. In all likelihood, only one or two of them will make it past my five-page trial. I think my brain is coming out of reread mode. From top to bottom:
- The Forgetting Time – Sharon Guskin (audio)
- Girl at War – Sara Novic
- My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry – Fredrik Backman
- The Map of the Sky – Felix Palma
- Purity – Jonathan Franzen
- The City & the City – China Mieville
- Humans of New York: Stories – Brandon Stanton
Any of these you recommend in particular?
**Bizarrely, my brain hasn’t figured out how to branch away from the screen into imagination when it comes to ebooks, which is why I don’t read them often. I’m sure one day, the right synapses will connect. A decade ago, I wrote all my stories/novels by hand because my brain wouldn’t write/create while I typed, and then one day, it was like a switch had flipped, and I could. I had a similar flip in 2010 when it came to audiobooks, and I’m sure ebooks will have their day, too. Yay for constantly growing brainpower!