The NAB Blog

Dance Dance Dance

By Nicolas Soames

1 September 2008

Last month, in AudioFile, the American audiobook magazine, the reviewer praised Rupert Degas’s reading of Haruki Murakami’s Dance Dance Dance. It is not, I think, immodest to print the review in its entirety, as it was given an ‘Earphones’ award, a gong of particular distinction.

By Haruki Murakami
Read by Rupert Degas

The unnamed hero of Haruki Murakami’s sixth novel is a somber, lonely writer whose dreams call him back to a run-down Sapporo hotel where he once lived. But when he tracks down the hotel, he finds a newly refurbished luxury high-rise. He falls for the receptionist, becomes guardian to a clairvoyant teen, and is transported to a haunted hallway, all while trying to solve a mystery of dead or missing prostitutes. British actor Rupert Degas is masterful in his reading of Dance Dance Dance. Degas performs the entire novel in a flawless American accent, with Japanese names, phrases, and place names read with a believable Japanese accent. Once Degas starts reading, it’s nearly impossible to stop listening to this oddly brilliant psychological thriller. S.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2008, Portland, Maine [Published: August 2008]

I entirely agree! When Rupert first read The Wild Sheep Chase, he set the character of Murakami’s narrator perfectly, and in the continuance of the story Dance, Dance, Dance he went even deeper.

But I thought I would highlight this review because I think it raises other issues.

Reviews are important to audiobook publishers – there is no doubt about that. We publish a number of titles a month, and we want them all to get noticed, but the reality is that only a handful can possibly be reviewed in the general press… only a specialist magazine like AudioFile can possibly cover a wider range. It is one of only a few magazines dedicated to audiobooks – I only know of two others in Germany, as it happens. And there isn’t one in the UK!

So we depend on reviews in newspapers to reach a wider public, and there, with all the competition from the main book world, we can only possibly hope for a handful each week. In fact, I must say that Naxos AudioBooks’ new releases get very well served by newspapers such as The Times and Sunday Times, The Guardian and Observer in the UK, and a variety of newspapers and library journals in the US. If you look at the news/reviews section above, you will see many recent examples.

But what is interesting about this particular review of Dance, Dance, Dance is the amount of space given to the actor and his performance. The reviewer sets the scene with an introduction to the novel… but then concentrates on the reading.

And, in a way, this is the MOST important part of the review to my mind. In classical music (and Naxos AudioBooks comes from the Naxos family of classical recordings), the critics will discuss the interpretation and the performance of a new recording of an established classic and perhaps compare it to existing recordings. This is what the prospective buyer wants to know about.

Now, Naxos AudioBooks concentrates on the classics mainly, of course, and the same should apply. How do the readers of Bleak House treat the main characters? How does Glen McCready present the characters of Professor Challenger and Malone in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World? In the case of a contemporary novel like Dance, Dance, Dance, more background about the novel is necessary undoubtedly, though, as in this case, it is balanced by reflections on Rupert Degas’s work.

The difficulty can be that many of the reviews appear on the book pages, and the tone of book reviews is very different to music reviews. This is another occasion where we find that audiobooks exist in the no man’s land between performance and the printed word. For there is no doubt that an audiobook is a different beast to the original book as anyone who has decided that the reader is NOT to his taste (and this can happen in minutes!) knows.

The most experienced audiobook reviewers understand this and the actor gets his/her fair due which, when the recording may have taken a week or more, is appreciated!

Nicolas Soames

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