What’s it like to bring a classic to life? George Guidall, the expert narrator of more than 1,200 audiobooks told us about his experience recording GRAVITY’S RAINBOW. Rediscover the power of Pynchon’s postmodern epic in this new audiobook recording, recently reviewed by the New York Times.
Winner of the 1973 National Book Award, GRAVITY’S RAINBOW is a complex and intellectual thriller following one U.S. Army lieutenant’s Faustian quest for a secret missile. This critically acclaimed bestseller covers a huge range of topics, which according to George, presented quite a challenge in the studio.
Never before widely available on audiobook, this new recording provides listeners with the perfect opportunity to dive into Pynchon’s classic. George says audiobooks provide an “emotional immediacy” that make challenging classics like GRAVITY’S RAINBOW more accessible to listeners.
George Guidall, on narrating GRAVITY’S RAINBOW:
“Narrating GRAVITY’S RAINBOW is similar to swimming roiling rapids upstream, trying not to be pulled back so as to soar over Niagara Falls, never to be heard from again. There IS a narrative current in the book which can carry one along, but there are so many diversions, such a breadth of topics, such an overlay of intellectual depths and whirlpools of emotional chaos, sometimes I felt like a desperate salmon lost on his journey to do what he knew he had to do. But I loved it. Luckily, I had Professor Wiesenburger’s compendium as an aid for clarifying particular references, so that I could say I knew what I was talking about. As a metaphor for an age, the end of WW2, when V2 rockets were all the rage, it is a tragic comedy with an immense breadth of knowledge, a large cast of characters bouncing between slapstick, science, metaphysics, some wonderful profanity and, some think, questionable literary propriety. But I loved it.
I started recording books for the Library of Congress, Talking Books, years ago when I was performing on Broadway. It was a nice check between shows. I soon came to realize, though, that it was much more than reading out loud. Now, after 1,237 unabridged recordings, I realize the essential nature of what I do. It satisfies an essential human need, to be told a story. If no one is telling us a story, if there is no incoming narrative, we tell ourselves stories. It’s a sign of consciousness.
I travel around the country and visit libraries with a program I’ve developed entitled “The Art and Artifice of Audiobook Narration.” It is amazing to experience the connection between narrator and listener. The program is a lot of fun, with out-takes, selections I read which I call vocal portraits. The devotion and commitment to audiobooks that listeners demonstrate is what I love to witness. The questions are endless. The gratitude for the art is what blows my mind. Yes, it IS an art. I sometimes feel that I’m a literary hermit crab finding a home in someone else’s imagined truth. And I take people along with me. It distracts them from the daily worries. It stimulates them, it moves them. It also brings them to literary experiences, especially the classics, which they might never have approached. I am infinitely rewarded by their appreciation and…I love it.
Now that my wife’s book has been published, I’d like to narrate that one. I can’t, though. It’s entitled She’s Not Herself, A Psychotherapist’s Journey Into and Beyond Her Mother’s Mental Illness. It’s beautifully written, but it’s a woman’s voice. How frustrating is that? She’s beginning library tours, so maybe we can do one together.
Librarians can always reach me through my website: www.georgeguidall.com.”
After listening to George read, audiobook fans have told him, “I’m thankful for traffic jams and I’m always coming home with frozen food melting in the back seat because I have to listen to the end of the chapter.” At an impressive 37 hours, this masterful recording will immerse listeners in a complex story that will make traffic jams fly by.
More Praise for GRAVITY’S RAINBOW:
“The most profound and accomplished American novel since the end of World War II.”–The New Republic
“The most important work of fiction yet produced by any living writer.”–Library Journal