The World Remade: America in World War I AudioFile best of 2017 History
Talking with Rob Shapiro
File under aspects of an audiobook narrator’s life that you’ve probably never thought much about: lunch. Narrator Rob Shapiro tells us that the studio at Penguin Random House is “one of my favorite places in the universe, especially because the lunchroom is so great--it’s all my peers, who are all literate, funny, wonderful people, and you’re just sitting in a lunchroom kibitzing and laughing for an hour. And then you go back and read.” And, he confides, “Every so often you’ll be sitting in there, and there’s some really famous person.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum from lunch with famous people is the problem of occasional ambient noise at his home studio. “Where we live, there are only two things that can bleed through my booth and the building, and that’s helicopters or gardeners. There are many days I’m just sitting in my studio waiting for the helicopters to stop circling over our house.”
The joys and challenges of the narrating booth have translated into Earphones Award-winning audiobook performances from Shapiro--from Max Tegmark’s LIFE 3.0 to a biography of Al Capone to THE WORLD REMADE, G.J. Meyer’s account of America and WWI.
Shapiro credits timing and rhythm with a successful narration, particularly for nonfiction titles. “You want to give the listener the right amount of time to absorb a concept and see it in their mind, and then lead them into the next concept. If you go too fast, you lose them. If you go too slow, they get bored really quickly.”
Shapiro has a natural affinity for nonfiction. “I was an early reader, and from the time I was about 5, believe it or not, I started reading very heavily about history. I loved history, in part, because these were stories that actually happened-- these weren’t imaginary stories, these were real things that occurred, with these amazing figures. One of the great things about being a narrator is that I still read all the time, and it’s like a world-class education,” Shapiro says. “It’s wonderful.”
Ultimately, Shapiro says, no matter the subject, audiobooks are all about the connection with the listener. “I’m also a singer, and there’s a particular kind of singing that I call pillow singing, where you sing as if you’re singing to someone lying on the pillow next to you. It’s such an intimate relationship--it’s just my voice in the listener’s ear. That’s it. It’s very personal.”--Jennifer M. Dowell
© AudioFile 2018, Portland, Maine
Photo courtesy of the narrator
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