The Book's Lover

The Book's Lover
Damiano Cali

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Extendable Ears: Naomi

I have no difficulty admitting my deep and abiding love for all things Harry Potter.  Mention the name, and I become a silly, squealing fangirl.  I have read all the books multiple times, and argued with friends as to which of us is most like Hermione.  I have dropped multiple hints that I really, really want a horcrux necklace for Christmas.  I have many intricate fantasies about how I was foisted off on an unsuspecting Muggle family, but will someday come into my powers. 

I believe that the success of Harry Potter has almost single-handedly revitalized the children's publishing industry, and has introduced a new generation of kids to the idea that reading can be, you know, FUN.  Even if the books were terrible, I would appreciate their influence and their impact (see my mixed feelings about Captain Underpants).  Thank goodness, the books are also awesome.  *squeal*

If you're not a fan, Gentle Reader, leave now.  This post is for Potterphiles.   I will find something else to geek out about next week, but this week is all Harry, all the time. 

The books first came on the scene when I was not paying much attention to children’s literature.  The Sorcerer’s Stone was published right after I graduated from high school, and I was busy pretending to be a grow-up.  The next two arrived in 1999, when I was interning for a publisher in the UK.  It was not  copacetic for me to read books published by “the competition.”  I didn’t start reading Harry Potter until the Mama checked all three of them out of the library over Christmas break and gave them to me.  I loves the Mama.  (See her in The LA Times article here.)
I devoured the books, Gentle Readers, and you know why.  Like most of the world, I eagerly awaited book four, and returned from vacation to find a copy left on my bed by my then-boyfriend.  I loves the then-boyfriend.  

By the time books five and six came out, I was reserving books and attending midnight releases with 12-year-olds.  When the final book was published, I was working in a children’s book store in between classes at Very Distinguished University.  Our midnight release party was EPIC.  We were a teeny tiny indie bookstore and had never done a release party before.  We went all out: Costume Contest, Magician, Face-Painting, Trivia, and Wand-Making (mine is a lovely Phoenix-tail, BTW).                                             

One couple came on their first date.  A gaggle of girls came in with “I must not tell lies” inscribed on their hands.  One family came dressed as the Weasleys.  The boys from Durmstrang made an appearance.  I may or may not have refereed a discussion (which turned into a shouting match) as to the good/evil nature of Severus Snape. ...All in all, a highly entertaining evening.  

But this blog post is not to talk about how much I love the books.  It’s not to fantasize about a first trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It’s not even to play the books-or-movies game. 

[Although, I must share: friends and I dressed up for the very first movie and went to the 9:00 show at Grauman's Chinese Theatre.  We packed in with other "yes I read the book and no I'm not 12" fans.  The line wrapped around the block.  People were in INSANELY high spirits, even during the previews.  But O my goodness, Gentle Readers.  The sound--the sheer volume of sound--when the Quidditch match started.  Audience members cheered like they were at a football game!  I have never seen(or heard) such raucous behavior in a theater.  It was beyond awesome.]
 BUT. This post is to talk about the Audio Books.  As a rule, I am not an audiobook fan.  They keep me from driving off the road in boredom, but that's about it.  These audiobooks, however, blow the freaking doors off!  

Within the last two years, I drove to visit friends.  Far away friends.  10 hours driving one-way friends.  Thank goodness that I listened to a co-worker's advice and tried Jim Dale reading Harry Potter.  I listened to the first book on the way over, and the second on the way back.  I barely noticed the miles.  It's that good. 

Here's Jim Dale:
If you think he looks familiar, that's because he played Dr. Terminus in Pete's Dragon.  If you have never seen Pete's Dragon, you have never experienced cheesy Disney animation-meets-live-action fun at its finest.  Here is a younger Dale, in fabulous costume:
So what? you may ask.  He's only another actor reading another book.  And yes, he is an actor.  And yes, he reads a book.  But there's no only about it.  This man performs these books in a truly magical way (all puns? no puns? some puns intended?).  He invented 146 distinct character voices.  Long before Dale gets to the "Hermione said" portion of the line, you already know which character is speaking, since Hermione sounds nothing like Luna, or Professor McGonagall, or Pansy Parkinson.  There are no cheesy sound effects, no creaking doors or rumbling thunder; just Dale, and his remarkable performance. 
Dale has a long and storied theatrical history.  He has won a Tony and a Grammy, and has nominations for an Oscar and a Golden Globe...the only thing he’s missing is Susan Lucci!  His voice may sound familiar as the narrator for TV’s Pushing Daisies.  He holds a freaking Guinness World Record for creating the most individual character voices in a performance  (146, if you recall).  I have difficulty explaining how seriously this man makes me geek out!

I'm now nearly finished with The Half-Blood Prince.  I have been taking my lunch breaks in the parking lot, sitting with my feet out my car window and listening to my audiobook.  I took the long way home last night so no one would see the crying when Dumbledore died (Of course I didn't cry; I was very strong.  Dobby cried).  I will finish it on the way home tonight.  And tomorrow, while I paint my bathroom, I will start The Deathly Hallows

I may have an addiction.

But I just heard that Dale is doing the audiobook version of Erin Morganstern’s The Night Circus.  That just might be my ticket out of obsession.  Then again...

For you, Gentle Readers, here is Jim Dale, reading a bit from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.  Enjoy, and I encourage you to get your hands on the audio books.  You'll find yourself looking for excuses to take the long way home. 

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