An open letter to @audible_com from one Richard Armitage fan

Richard Armitage at work on the Hamlet audiobook, 2014.

Richard Armitage at work on the Hamlet audiobook, 2014.

Dear Audible,

Although earlier Richard Armitage did audiobooks with a number of different distributors, in the last two years he has worked only with you and you have assumed the rights to distribute many of his older titles. When he does a title with you, you promote it heavily and creatively, and I think every fan of his has appreciated your willingness to nominate him for various distinctions and awards both within your company and in the wider industry. We love the interviews, too. All the signs seem to say that he will continue to work exclusively with you, and that’s why I am writing to you today.

Right off, I’ll make a concession you should be aware of before you consider what I’m saying. I’m not in the crowd of people who consistently buy audiobooks; in fact, the fact that Armitage records it is pretty much the only reason I would ever purchase one. I prefer to read books. Also, while I think of myself as a pretty serious fan of Armitage, I’m not a very enthusiastic tweep. Fans gotta do what they gotta do, and every fan should do what she wants, but I’m not in the crowd that answers every single question you tweet with “Richard Armitage.” So I am also writing this letter in full awareness that someone like me is on the margin of your concerns in terms of developing a further audience either for audiobooks in the aggregate, or for Armitage’s work specifically.

Having now buried the lede for long enough: I’ll put it here — I find myself really exhausted by your selection of material for him to read. When I learned that the next project was an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, my first reaction was: Why can’t Armitage do something that I didn’t already have an opinion of by the age of fifteen? David Hewson is a consummate professional, a truly good person from what I can tell from what he says on social media, and I have nothing but respect for what he accomplishes with his adaptations and the possibility that he reaches broader audiences. I’ve learned a lot from his advice about writing, too. But when it comes down to what I’d like to hear Richard Armitage reading, I’m in the crowd of people who like Hamlet as it is, soliloquies and all. I’m not very romantically inclined, although the Heyer novels are short enough to remain charming, and while I’d never say “no” to some interesting tragedy, for me the major reason to listen to Romeo & Juliet these days at all is to appreciate the original blank verse. I had enough of David Copperfield in high school English to last me my whole life, and I’ve cordially disliked Dickens’ Christmas stories since I was in sixth grade.

I suppose Richard Armitage picks these things; he certainly always expresses his enthusiasm for them. Maybe he doesn’t want to do other things. But I admit when I hear there will be a new audio project, I always hope it will be something more like the work of some of the darker, edgier, more deeply psychological authors that Armitage has cited as having enjoyed over the years: Dostoyevsky, Bulgakov, Fowles, J.G. Ballard. I always hope it will be something I’m not expecting. And I always discover that it’s either a dusty old classic or else an adaptation of a classic that in my opinion didn’t really require adaptation in the first place.

Some final concessions: I know you know your audience better than I do. I know you do marketing studies about what can be sold. I have no doubt that there’s a serious group of people out there who wanted to listen to yet another version of David Copperfield. I’m sure that the combination of “Richard Armitage” and “Romeo and Juliet” is enough to make hundreds of fans click enthusiastically to spend that Audible credit. And the thing is: I have bought all of these things, too. I don’t know what his royalty arrangements are with you, but I believe in supporting artists’ work, so I’ve purchased everything he’s done for Audible. I have listened to Hamlet a few times, but I listened to about three minutes of The Chimes and about forty minutes of David Copperfield. The poems he recorded are fine. I will buy Romeo & Juliet because I want to signal my support for his work, but I’m not optimistic that I will get past the first half hour of so. I love Armitage’s voice as much as the next fan, but not even that incentive is sufficient as payback for suffering through thirty-plus hours of stodgy Dickensian sentimentalism. Heyer is a guilty adolescent pleasure for me, and I appreciate the seriousness with which Armitage took those projects — but at least her books are short.

The “open letter” format can be used to express outrage, but that’s not my purpose today. Like I said, I keep looking forward, and I will keep buying as long as I am a fan. All I’m saying is that there is one fan out here who would be really grateful not to get the same old thing next time. I know it’s true for every fan that in each of our perfect worlds, Richard Armitage would be doing something different. I get that you know your market, Armitage is apparently cooperative with or enthusiastic about what you do, and that no project is going to satisfy every fan. No prejudice toward David Hewson, who’s great.

I just wanted you to know that there is at least one other fan out here, someone who isn’t constantly tweeting at you, who would be delighted to hear something else — something unconventional, or at least surprising — for a change.

Best wishes,

Michaela Servetus

ps. There are also a number of fans who would be grateful for a higher quality playback format than mp3. This impacts me only insofar as I only listen to things in the car that came on CDs — so also none of the works he’s done for you originally. The fact that it’s so much work to get a format that I can use easily in my car also decreases the likelihood that I’ll spend much time on the stuff he makes for Audible.

~ by Servetus on September 4, 2016.

94 Responses to “An open letter to @audible_com from one Richard Armitage fan”

  1. Nicely done polite letter and I couldn’t agree more, with everything in it.

  2. I completely agree. I’m a big fan of audiobooks and was really excited about David Copperfield because I had been wanting to read it for ages, but after three classics/adapted classics, I was disappointed about R&J even though I already know I’ll buy it for pretty much the reasons you’ve stated. I would love for him to narrate something I wouldn’t usually read or at least something that hasn’t been adapted five million times already. I think RA has a really good range when it comes to voices and I feel he’s wasted on keeping the same theme with these audiobooks, no matter how much I love classics.

  3. Well written. You’re spot on from my POV.

    • Forgot to mention that I enjoyed the intro to Turn of the Screw, but it’s not the kind of thing I’d listen to repeatedly.

      • Just uploaded it for my flights later this week. His part seems quite brief, but I really enjoyed Emma Thompson’d performance.

        Maybe it’s because everything else is a bit rough at the moment, but I’d love something light and funny for a change. I’d like him to give some dry and dark humour a try, material that most people would associate with performers like Toby Stephens, Maggie Smith or Hugh Laurie. I believe he could be quite good, and it may even present a little stretch/challenge for his acting muscles too.

  4. yes! I’m not a regular audiobook user to begin with, but I’d be more likely to purchase those read by Richard if it was something more exciting. I have nothing against “classics”, just the type of classics that have been chosen so far. if he read any of the examples you cited, I would buy them in a heartbeat! but as it stands, I didn’t finish Hamlet, passed on David Copperfield, and have no intention of buying Romeo & Juliet. I do own two of his previous Heyer recordings on CD, which I am more likely to listen to again b/c of the format (along with Lords of the North). as you said, maybe it’s Richard himself that is influencing the choices? at any rate, I enjoy Richard’s voice immensely but have not been intrigued with the Audible offerings.

  5. So strange, I was thinking to write to Audible, this afternoon, while ironing.. I can’t and wont stop missing those CDs:
    THANK YOU Servetus to access to my mind and to read in it, what I thought and more I could express !

    • I’ve had some weird synchronicity today. Was warming up my lunch when dad walked in unexpectedly to eat it. 🙂

      • J’espère que vous ne mourriez pas de faim. Like in the movie “The horse whisperer Robert Redford stole Dianne Wiest’s cookies. Funny!

        • Luckily, I had more food available. He just assumed I was making him lunch. I had no idea when he was planning to be home. I had just put it on a plate on the counter and gone into the porch to grab a can of soda and when I got back to the kitchen he was eating it!

          Huge stereotype: many men really do assume that all food is there for them to eat it.

    • It was only about the 10 cds WITH Richard Armitage Narrating “Lords of the North”. Those only ONES I was mesmerized with.

  6. Amen! Whatever next? Julius Ceasar? That should pretty much cover off Grade 10 for me.

    • LOL!

      Maybe that’s their plan, actually. Exploit and engage the high school market.

      • There you go. We are not even the demographic they’re aiming for.

        • It might really be true. Although I just looked at their catalog and they have works by all the authors I mentioned in the original letter — so maybe there is hope. Maybe it’s that Armitage isn’t “big” enough. I see that Hiddleston is one of the narrators for Ballard, for instance.

          • I have one audiobook narrated by TH – he also has a nice voice and does a good job. I might give High-rise a go with next month’s credit 😉

            • When I learned that Armitage liked Ballard I read a bunch of his books (on my neverending quest) — and I enjoyed/appreciated High-Rise. “Like” is a bit too bland as a descriptor for a novel like that. Also, it’s not dated at all despite being forty years old at this point.

              • Never read Ballard myself. (I assume TH did the High-rise audiobook, because he was in the film.) How would you describe Ballard’s style, any comparisons to other authors?

                • That might explain it.

                  Dryly dystopian? Sort of matter of factly hyperfocused, but not self-consciously so. My favorite dystopian author is possibly still Orwell, but Ballard is not much like that; his characters are less self-aware, or more caught up in what’s happening to them, and the plots are not at all noticeably allegorical. Very straight on in terms of description, but not typical brutalistic. Ballard was brought up on obscenity charges multiple times but I never understood why. Occasional bursts of lyricism but not self-consciously or pretentiously poetic in language. Description of inner states of mind over plot.

          • He’s huge ear candy for them!

  7. I agree with the benefits of diversifying the titles Richard narrates through Audible. A wider range of options for a variety of tastes would certainly be beneficial in aesthetic terms (can’t say how well a lesser known title would do for the general Audible market).

    However, I am an unapologetic classic lit nerd and don’t find new voices interpreting the works of Dickens (or Bronte or Austen) as dusty or redundant. But I am also pretty much squarely inside the market for as I have a pretty eclectic Audible library and listen to novels as much as I read them. I do even more listening than reading when it is a classic I’m very familiar with.

    But I certainly take your point that an Armitage narration of a lesser known classic or a contemporary work would be a novel (pun intended!) change.

  8. I love classics; I’m in the process of reading the Zola novels I missed in graduate school right now; Balzac is probably next. The letter doesn’t attack all classics as choices but rather titles that are on the syllabus in the US for most 9th and 10th graders.

    • 🙂

      • Zola and Balzac just keep on giving. Sooooo many books to read!

        • De Balzac je retiendrai principalement “La Comédie humaine” = 93 romans et particulièrement “Le père Goriot” et si vous aimez les châteaux de la Loire, le roman :”Le Lys dans la vallée”.
          De Zola, je retiendrai l’écrivain (ElizabethGaskell en plus noir) dans la série des Rougon-Macquart avec “l’Assommoir” sur l’alcool, “Germinal” sur les mines, “Au Bonheur des Dames” sur les grands magasins et le journaliste dans sa lettre ouverte “J’accuse” sur l’affaire Dreyfus…

          • I’ve taught The Ladies’ Paradise (Au Bonheur des Dames) several times; also L’Argent (which the students didn’t like as well) and La bête humaine. Love The Ladies’ Paradise and especially the heroine and I totally agree with you about the comparison of Zola to Gaskell. Père Goriot was a graduate school standby, and I read, I think, four more of the novels — I always wanted to read more Balzac and I’m really enjoying that I potentially have time now. But I’m filling in the holes in my Zola first. I’m working on Paris right now.

            Oh — and if you’re looking for Armitage / Zola connection, I assume you know this but perhaps not:

            • Si vous aimez Depardieu, la France et Paris voilà quelques films:
              -“Le Dernier Métro” est un film réalisé par François Truffaut,
              -“La Môme – ou La Vie en rose” sur Edith Piaf par Olivier Dahan,
              -“Camille Claudel par Bruno Nuytten,
              -“36 quai des Orfèvres” film policier par Olivier Marchal,
              -“Paris, je t’aime” est un film à sketches
              -“Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain” par Jean-Pierre Jeunet

              Sans Depardieu:
              Hugo Cabret par Martin Scorsese
              Hôtel du Nord par Marcel Carné
              An American in Paris de Vincente Minnelli
              Midnight in Paris de Woody Allen
              L’Armée des ombres de Jean-Pierre Melville
              La Traversée de Paris de Claude Autant-Lara

              pour Maggie Smith: My Old Lady par Israël Horovitz

    • I have defended “dusty old classics” so often, I think I have a knee-jerk reaction. You certainly did NOT disparage classics in general, and I’d be up for several of your suggestions!

      My brain also goes straight into “programming” mode with questions of what sells and what doesn’t. I think about Shakespeare companies doing R&J every three years. Hardcore Shakespeare nuts will cry, “Why? Again?!” The theater companies then say, “It sold out last time and the time before and the time before, but those people never show up for Cymbeline.” LOL! But you also acknowledge that Audible knows the market. So, yeah. . .

      You make a great case for what will get you, a hardcore RA fan who doesn’t listen to many audiobooks, to listen to a few more. And a lot of people seem to agree! I can totally swing both ways on this one!

  9. that was a very nice and thoughtful letter you sent to audible books, Servetus. I do hope they read it and do something. I also like going for a drive( on my day off or after work) and listening to Mr. Richard Armitage. I was just thinking, it would be really wonderful if Mr. Richard Armitage did a reading of his t.v. show Berlin Station, like he did for Robin Hood.

    • That’s an interesting suggestion; I wonder who’s read Steinhauer’s novels. I think jholland said that they are already available as audiobooks.

  10. Through Audible, I listened to The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer. I wasn’t in love with the book. Someone suggested The Old Knives as a better example. I’ll give it a a try.
    That was a nice way of putting a request, and I have confidence that David Hewson will work wonders with Romeo and Juliet, but it’s so likely that Audible with do another collaboration with Richard Armitage, I think it made sense to weigh in on what else fans might appreciate. Both The Chimes and DC were an ordeal for me. I opted to rip off the band-aid and plow through.
    Maybe this is something for his fans that Richard Armitage might lobby for.

    • Thanks.

      I could see an argument for another Shakespeare adaptation of something not quite so well known. Othello, maybe — still solidly in the canon, has a fantastic plot, would respond well to what Hewson does best — but not something we’ve all been consuming nonstop for decades.

      I said what I thought about The Tourist trilogy a few months ago, so I won’t repeat myself. Steinhauer is just not a stylist; he’s all about plot and that should work really well on tv, but I think for something where the sound of the work is important, more is demanded.

      • It’s possible to have both. Audible used Alan Cumming for Macbeth and he was terrific. Someone else could narrate another Shakespeare adaptation ( The Hamlet team talked, kiddingly, about Othello with Idris Elba) and Audible could choose something else entirely for Richard Armitage’s next gig.

        • the latter would be my preference 🙂

          Back in 2005 Armitage said he wanted to do Coriolanus — maybe he should lobby for that. Definitely did not read that one in ninth grade 🙂

  11. Yeah, I get the marketing argument. I played in orchestras for about eight years total and there’s a reason that every clarinetist can play the solo Schubert’s Unfinished in her sleep. I played it four times in eight years because people want to hear it. But even orchestras slip in less familiar pieces of the repertoire, in between the old warhorses. I think that an orchestra usually feels that it has some responsibility to expand people’s minds / cultural awareness a little, and Audible probably doesn’t feel that way (that’s part of a general trend in publishing anyway whether it applies to them or not). I’m definitely not claiming I know more than them about their own consumers — just that I am also potentially a piece of that market, albeit a tiny one. IF it’s the case that Armitage’s fans will buy whatever he reads, AND as is so often asserted, we would pay to hear him reading the phone book, then surely one can dare a little more and still claim at least the piece of the audience no matter what?

    re: Shakespeare — I think this gets to stuff that bugs me about the adaptations that Hewson does specifically. That is, I’m totally up for Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead, or West Side Story (albeit it somewhat less so, and I admit that Baz Luhrman bores me — I don’t get the aesthetic). I don’t especially like R&J adaptations but I could be persuaded to see one that was significantly creative, and I like thinking about reversals of various kinds of expectations (I’ve always been intrigued what queer theory has to say about this play, and let’s say Juliet is Romeo’s beard and Romeo is responsible for her murder or whatever so he can run off with Mercutio). This isn’t what Hewson does. He’s trying to make Hamlet less philosophical and more comprehensible on a surface level. It’s a kind of Cliff’s Notes adaptation. I don’t want to criticize that in itself, just say that I want something difference. What he does with Hamlet involves a reversal, but it doesn’t add anything to the experience for me, really. It’s not even Hamlet with Zombies and Vampires (not that I am recommending that). I saw where Reid Armbruster said that some unexpected, unpredictable things will happen in this story. I hope that they are intriguing and not just surprising.

  12. Some contemporary work would be really nice, I have to say. I found the Chimes a chore, and I neither finished Hamlet not Copperfield. Based on that experience, I am unlikely to buy R&J. I did, however, listen to and finish all 3 Heyers and Lords of the North. Not sure whether there is really a lesson in that or whether it was the personal circumstances – I had extensive dental surgery when I listened to Heyer’s light novels, so maybe that’s not representative. And it’s not that I dislike the classics or that I am a snob and do not want to listen to a revised, modernised version of a classic. It’s just that I am bored with the same old, same old…
    What I would really like to hear Armitage do (and maybe Audible could facilitate that, too) is an audio PLAY. I was really late in discovering Clarissa, but I absolutely loved that audio format.

    • Are people who prefer the originals, snobs? There are some adaptations that just don’t live up. (For the record, I don’t think that’s the case here — Hewson’s adaptations are simply different genre than the originals, one that doesn’t appeal to every Shakespeare lover.)

      I thought Clarissa was well done, too — for that, we’ll have to wait for the BBC again, I suspect. Or someone who wants to pay multiple artists.

  13. Lovely letter. I was just dozing with the tv on and unbeknownst to me an Audible commercial came on. I really didn’t pay attention to it since my eyes were closed but they suddenly opened when I heard a familiar voice. I would know that voice anywhere. Now I am awake.

  14. I remember in one interview (promo interview on ‘David Copperfield’ for Audible but not sure) Richard said he was offered several books to choose for reading and he chose Dickens’s novel. So maybe Audible offers him the classic only and he can’t change it.
    Like The Chimes very much. IMHO his Toby Veck is one of the best male characters he made.
    re: R&J I guess Audible, D.Hewson and Richard do it in relation to the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death commemorated this year. They offered, he accepted. It seems like the previous experience with ‘Hamlet’ was good for all of them.

    • I remember that too — I think we have to assume that Copperfield is something he likes since all the evidence points in that direction. My question is only: given his many other statements, is this really the only kind of thing he likes? Also, I’m not saying Hamlet wasn’t profitable or enjoyable for all of them. I’m asking whether it’s the only kind of thing that can be profitable or enjoyable, or whether there are other things that might be equally profitable or enjoyable for them and more enjoyable for me.

      My suspicion about Heyer was that it wasn’t something he’d have chosen to read, necessarily, but that Naxos was looking for something that piggybacked off the success of N&S. I wonder if that is part of what is happening, here, too — marketers concluding that fans of North & South only want to hear other period pieces / classics. I just want them to know that isn’t the case.

      • I’d like to know what were other books besides DC they offered him. Interesting what they offered but he haven’t chosen.
        I just remembered about the radio interview on DC for NYT RA had in February or March. He was asked what book he’d like to read next and he said it would be ‘Crime and Punishment’ by Dostoyevsky.
        He definitely gravitates to the classic 🙂 I wonder what book will be the next after R&J. Hope Audible willl take into account your letter.
        Btw, Fowles would be great. Like his The French Lieutenant’s Woman very much.

        • The interest in Crime & Punishment goes back to drama school, acc to him in 2009 (last paragraph): and I would love that. A very unsettling book. Fowles: I haven’t read French Lieutenant’s Woman, but I read The Magus one summer when I was staying all by myself in a sort of remote area for a week — that book made me really jangly for days. I should have called someone to talk about it, lol.

          • Thank you for the link. Great interview. Didn’t read it before. Yes, RA often mentions ‘Crime and Punishment’ as one of the books which
            affected him for choosing an actor’s career.
            Very philosophical book. And I think it’s a real challenge for the actor to play Rodion Raskolnikov. The role suits him very much IMO.

    • I was also wondering whether (given that the fan enthusiasm for audiobooks is so great) DC wasn’t a kind of sop to all the people who were definitely not watching Hannibal — I saw one fan survey that suggested a quarter of us were not watching it.

      • Who knows. Maybe.
        I have watched Hannibal. Was very impressed by RA’s performance.

        • I watched it too. (And I plan to watch it one more time, if I can get my nerves together.) Just a lot of people I know didn’t. I hesitate to draw this conclusion because on the whole I think fans think we are way more important in his decisionmaking than we are, so I don’t like to attribute it specifically to fan considerations. Maybe it would be more believable to conclude that he just wanted to do something at the opposite end of the spectrum.

          • Hannibal will be released on DVD this fall, I am going to buy Red Dragon episodes. The series was not distributed in my country so I watched it in Internet not legally and in poor quality.

            There was an interesting interview on Hannibal for WSJ
            The key words of RA re his performance in Hannibal for me were: “it’s worth playing because you kind of have to say it’s not about entertainment, this is about investigating character and trying to understand why people do these things”.
            And these ones from interview for Mirror are interesting “I knew Francis Dolahyde was controversial because I knew a lot of people wouldn’t like him. Because they like you to be a heartthrob or attractive. So I saw that as ‘let’s see if we can change people’s tastes’.”
            IMO it is one of his best performances if not the best.

            • yeah, I read both of those (he always gets a great interview with the WSJ — their Hobbit interviews with him were fantastic also), but I’m afraid I found the second quotation repellent. We talked about it extensively here at the time, so I won’t go into it 🙂

            • I really enjoyed his part of Hannibal (not so the first 2.5 seasons) and felt it was an excellent performance and a really fascinating character. In that regard I was really surprised that so many people didn’t even try to watch this. Richard Armitage seems to have really hit a nerve there and finally picked a role not everyone can accept. It’s astonishing, at least to me. In his way, this character isn’t that far from Guy, for example, in that he does some terrible things, but you can understand the reasons, feel compassion and even like him to a degree. Is it just the blood / explicitness that makes Francis so much more unbearable / unacceptable, or is it the implied sexual violence? I’ve watched his episodes several times and keep on being fascinated and feeling for Francis. But I seem to be a bit of the odd one out there.

              • I can only speak for me in definite terms — I’m really leery of aestheticization of violence, and unfortunately I did watch the first 2 seasons, so I knew what was coming. I was also just plain disgusted by all the blood and gore, which was not normal TV fare in my generation — you had to go to the movies for that when I was in process of socialization and I think it’s almost a social line with people my age in the US, whether you enjoy that sort of stuff or will go to see it in the movies or watch it on tv.

                I think there are a fair number of his fans for whom the sexualization of violence / violence against women is an absolute hard limit. They will not watch that stuff (for those reasons) period, no matter who does it. Some of them are religiously or morally motivated, others are victims of abuse themselves. Fandom in general seems to have a high proportion of people who have been sexually or physically abused, and I think that is absolutely true in our fandom. Those people didn’t to watch it period, but they also didn’t want their picture of him destroyed by seeing him like that (which was hard to avoid for a while because the pictures were everywhere).

                • That’s interesting, thank you for your explanations.

                  I was also absolutely disgusted with the first two seasons that basically celebrated and aestheticized gore / violence to an extreme degree, but all of that was really toned down for most of the Red Dragon arc. (I was really grateful for that, and from what I read so was Richard Armitage, ironically enough, since he accepted the role after all.) And we know that there is sexual violence, but it’s even less hinted at than in the novels in which the author tried to deal with this in a restrained way. In combination with Francis being in so many ways a victim himself, I had no problem with his character and keep discovering interesting facets in him and Armitage’s performance. But it makes sense that people who have been hurt stay away from this. And I guess the expectations are worse than what you really get to see in the series, which may also account for some of what you describe.

                  • I think it depends a lot on what you’re used to. I was absolutely nauseated by the biting off the lips scene, for instance. But I have never watched any of that. We talked about it somewhat at the time, because I’ve seen a lot of twentieth century documentary / live film that involves disgusting things (corpses in concentration camps, torture, etc.) which I find upsetting, but doesn’t nauseate me in the way that Hannibal did. There’s something specifically about the fact that it’s entertainment that makes it extra revolting and — as Bryan Fuller’s interviews went on and I read more them, I started to find the insistence on how wonderful it was puerile. I honestly did not feel like there was that much pullback from gore and violence in the Red Dragon episodes, but my trigger for disgust is set much lower than a lot of people’s I think and it was well overloaded by the time I got to see them. I didn’t even watch the first half of season 3 until recently, which I watched the first two episodes in attempt to address this issue and had to stop. I will make myself do it, though.

                    As for victims of violence, or really any other fan, too, they should stay away if that’s best for them. There’s really no “should” in fandom in that sense. I think I’m not a pure fan in that I was trained as a scholar that you have to look at everything and can’t base your examination of anything on whim or even serious objections. When I was preparing students for internships we always had to have the talk about “now you’re in an archive, you may discover things that truly upset or disgust you” and I was okay with that for students and for me. No one likes to look at a picture of (say) a lynching but somebody has to. But I think for the pure fan, why should they even look at this stuff if they know they will hate it? Honestly, one of the things that bugged me most about his remark as quoted in The Mirror was this implication that there’s some philosophical or moral value to expanding people’s tastes to include what is essentially gore (and arguably, infantile gore). Like someone’s a better person somehow if she can look at that stuff and not want to vomit. I don’t think people like that are worse people, but I don’t think additional virtue accrues to them, either.

                    • No judgement whatsoever of those who don’t watch it was implied, and you’re right, everyone should make the decision that’s right for them.

                      I just asked myself why since before you nobody really gave an explanation. There was clearly interest and even respect (he does do a great job), but then still the reaction: I won’t watch this. It looked to me like some fans were afraid they might not like him as much after seeing him in such a role. There was some of this going on with Guy where fans tried to justify or excuse bad actions to make him more likeable when he wasn’t always. To me that’s a fascinating aspect of fandom, but one I don’t share. I can just analyse a character and have fun with a good performance, even if I don’t like that character. What you describe goes into a completely different direction and makes sense to me. So I found this discussion really interesting. It definitely has given me food for thought, which is always good.

                      The lip scene and its aftermath were the one part that was just as bad as the first 2.5 seasons in my book, which I solved by not looking closely after the first time. And I really don’t see what’s supposed to be so great about the extreme gore, but it definitely had an effect in that a lot of critics (and a relatively small circle of Hannibal-fans) were impressed and considered it art. I don’t see it that way, but to each their own, I guess. I only watched it for Richard Armitage and wouldn’t have done so otherwise. But I felt that maybe I was overly squeamish. (I’m a vegetarian and don’t do well with ‘meat scenes’, be it animal or pretend human.) I guess that’s not so considering what you describe.

                  • I agree there’s been somewhat of a problem over the years with the occasional fan refusal to distinguish Armitage from his characters or the sentiment that b/c we think Armitage is a good person, his villains can’t be bad people. (It was something Armitage speculated about once with regard to Guy, if he’d made him too relatable. ) The one I witnessed personally was the fandom reaction to the John Bateman story line — it’s one thing to say “I don’t like that story line” or “I don’t believe that story line” but there was a certain amount of insistence that the series was bad because the storyline was implausible or that Armitage had been treated badly (which I found funny after series 8, which was really hard to follow, plotwise, and in that case, there was pushback because some fan who didn’t like the character of Sarah insisted that O’Reilly was a poor actress). I actually think Armitage did some really good acting in that series, but a lot of people won’t rewatch it and I agree it relates to this whole question of whether they can accept him as a villain. But I think that’s different from a situation where fans know from the beginning that he’s playing a villain. I also think there was a sort of collective nod in 2013 when he was asked if there was any genre he wouldn’t do and he said “horror,” i.e., a lot of fans said, he really is safe to follow, he shares my aesthetic values — and then he ends up in this show which, if not horror per se, shares a lot of its visual imagery.

                    I haven’t done it recently but I helped butcher every fall when I was a teen (venison and beef) and I did the post-release care on my mom’s surgical wounds, twice. I don’t love staring at wounded flesh but I’m not nauseated by it. This is somehow in a different category, and I think it’s because I know it’s not real and some part of me refuses to accept it as art. (???)

                    • Yes, the Spooks / Bateman reaction fits exactly into what I mean. I also felt the sudden plot twist didn’t fit to what had been developed before, but once I got beyond being frustrated with the lack of logic (and not just for his character, but also for the former Home Secretary’s) I just enjoyed this as excellent acting. (And have watched it several times, too.) He did a really good job there. In that regard, I also really enjoy the episode in which he lets the computer specialist die. And I use the term enjoy on purpose although it may be provocative. As an actor, he does wonderful work here, it’s very intense and believable. If this was real, it would be terrible, but as acting it’s a pleasure to see him sink his teeth into work with such depth.

                  • I agree re: the acting in Spooks 9 on his part and I thought it was particularly impressive when you consider they shoot the scenes out of order. To maintain this sort of consistent character development for essentially two characters where they are both lying all the time — it was masterful.

                • Je venais d’écrire un article qui pouvait facilement conduire à des contre verses, mais par mégarde je l’ai effacé. C’est mieux, car il parlait de la notion de cannibalisme et ses rites à travers les âges, l’avis des anthropologues et des philosophes et les dérives actuelles de certains psychopathes. Puis j’exposais comment la culture veut rendre ce tabou un fait banal acceptable grâce à l’esthétisme. Alors, que la culture ou l’inculture veut en profiter pour véhiculer des notions intolérables ( dérives sataniques, sexuelles..) Je ne renie pas la performance de monsieur Armitage et la valeur de la série. Mais quel est le goût dont ils veulent parler. Cela me questionne au plus haut point§

                  • I think it’s a great point that cannibalism is (inter alia) a trope — and reading about it — a lot of authors were interested in it in the seventeenth century, for instance — doesn’t bother me so much. I feel like the gore distracts me from even thinking about that, somehow.

            • It is definitely one of his best. He really did inhabit both Francis and The Dragon. I tried watching Hannibal in it’s first season, it was just too…I don’t know, trippy. I sure have watched The Dragon arc a few times though. Which is nothing compared with the repeated rotation of some others, but considering that it’s really not my thing, still says something.

  15. An interesting letter, and I really appreciate the fact that you mentioned the poor audio quality of their audio books and the fact that they don’t sell CDs. I am capable of burning my own from their files (if I invest several hours into that for a longer audio book), but in the end they are still the inferior mp3 quality audible sell. I know that they improved that quality from 32kbps to 64kbps (and that’s still extremely poor) only due to customer complaints. If enough people let them know that quality or proper CDs matter to them they might go further.
    Regarding the choice of books: It is pretty one-sided. While I’m looking forward to Romeo and Juliet and am impressed with just how good he is at reading even books I’m not actually interested in, his variety used to be a lot wider (Robin Hood, Georgette Heyer, Lords of the North, Clarissa, poetry for a radio broadcast…) before audible. Since he seems to work exclusively for them now it would be great if they offered him more varied work. I’ve been asking myself if they think that his typical audience are into this kind of literature and wouldn’t be open to anything else? As long as nobody or too few people tell them differently and these books sell well automatically because of him, why should they change what they do. It’s only about the sales for them, after all.
    So thank you for writing this letter.

    • One guesses they aren’t recorded in 64 kbps, so why not offer the better quality files at an appropriate price? (I know, it might not work out in terms of economies of scale — but I always wonder how many copies they have to make for it to work out. I know that audiobook sales are not as robust as regular titles.)

      re: what they think about his audience — emphatically yes. That was my motivation for writing this. Frankly, I personally don’t want to be tweeting at them all the time. I just wanted them to have a chance to know that many of his fans have broader tastes than the stuff they’ve been having him do these last two years.

      • It’s safe to say that they do record in proper quality. I even read somewhere what quality they demand from people who want to publish something through them, and it was a lot better than what they sell. (I don’t remember the exact requirement, though.)

        What I was told when I contacted them about this was that people in the USA didn’t mind the poor quality and that they only went up to 64 kbps because buyers in Germany had complained. How much truth there is to that (really weird) claim is another matter. There must be some awareness that quality matters since they try to sell these 64 kbps as “CD-quality”, which it isn’t.

        What does play a role is that larger files take longer to download and that people with a slow internet connection would have a harder time downloading them. And if you use an inferior player you may actually not hear the difference, but I wouldn’t know about that. I can definitely hear it on my PC, let alone on a CD player. These books sound absolutely awful, especially compared to his CD publications like Robin Hood, Heyer or Lords. Even his radio recordings are far superior with regard to sound quality. So as you write, why not offer decent quality, either as the norm or as a more expensive choice? They already offer several file sizes / qualities when you buy a book and leave the choice of download size / quality up to you. So why not offer good quality for a change instead of a range of poor quality mp3s?

        • I agree — and as you noted before, even if they didn’t want to produce the high quality media themselves, the downloader could do that.

          A mystery.

          • Or idiocy…

            • LOL.

              fwiw, in general I find that Americans have a very hard time imagining the concerns of other groups of people, and this extends to marketing. American awareness of a market doesn’t always translate to willingness to conform to the wishes of that market.

  16. Pourquoi ne pas changer le goût des adeptes d’ audible avec la lecture de Hannibal? S’ils sont mal-voyants ils pourront laisser vagabonder leur imagination.
    Mauvaise blague!

  17. I do hope that he does some different genres. I will listen to whatever he does because well, it’s him, but I also love all his different voices. As for the two toughest to tackle, mixed results. I actually liked Hamlet, but I had never read it. I was dreading David Copperfield a little, but I’m on chapter 16, it’s not quite as bad as expected. I’d be interested in whether you get any response to your letter. It was well written and polite, not nasty in any way.

    • I didn’t really ask for a response, so I doubt I will get one. What I think is funny about this (and not just this) is how threatened people feel by the simple expression of a divergent opinion. After I published this I saw a number of tweets to both Hewson and Audible about how much they loved that Armitage is doing R&J. As I said repeatedly, I have nothing but good feelings about Hewson. Like I had somehow jeopardized the possibility that what is going to happen anyway will happen, lol. Fans can be funny people, can’t we?

      • Lol, I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that anytime YOU question something, it’s like a call to arms. I’m not saying that there wouldn’t be some reaction no matter who the dissenter might be, but not necessarily as strong as it is in response to you. It’s just so predictable. Dear Servetus, I think you might be able to sit in Roundabout, without the person next to you having any clue who you are, say some of the things you write, and the person would just politely disagree.

  18. Serv. ya did good 🙂 I so agree with the selections on audio with RA. I like you went to audio simply because of “that voice”, I have bought the Heyer novels and Hamlet, but I did not do Copperfield, that I passed on, he is not one of my favorites, I had trouble getting through The Chimes and I must admit I have pre-ordered R&J, so I shall see what I get. I do wish he would go into some of the ones mentioned. Ah, yes I do remember the discussion reg. his opinion of the role of the Red Dragon and its effecton his fans. it definitely was memorable. Now with Guy to the Dragon, one thing I can recall mostly is Marian being stabbed with a broad sword in a white dress and not 1 drop of blood on it. (They just cannot be compared) You never saw blood in RH & I think it kind of took the “squeamish” factor away that the Red Dragon did not.

    • RH was shown in the early evening, Saturdays, on BBC (iirc) and that is “before the watershed,” i.e., they can’t show things that are inappropriate for children. So plenty of violence and a certain amount of death but nothing graphic.

    • To me it wasn’t so much the ‘squeamish’ question when I mentioned Guy in reference to fan reactions to Hannibal. What fascinates me in this context is that a lot of fans tried to find excuses for Sir Guy when he did bad things, for example when he left the baby in the woods to die. That’s a fascinating reaction, especially when seen in connection with fans refusing to watch (or re-watch) Spooks 9 or Hannibal. It goes beyond ‘just’ gore etc. and into the question of whether or not fans can stand it when Richard Armitage plays someone who does something they find despicable.

      But of course, Robin Hood was definitely aimed at kids and therefore very restrained when it comes to blood etc., while Hannibal has a completely different target audience.

  19. I am completely humbled that someone would ask after getting the obvious outta the way, but I am a fan and while I haven’t bought an audiable form their website, the only thing I bought that remotely resembles a purchase was when the Hobbit dvd came out with Hello(@RAC himself) in it. I can’t even get an account with without either it having credits or a paypal thing too. Just once I’d like a website to have something for free for those who can’t afford to buy something, like myself

    • They did have The Chimes for free for a while, but it was almost impossible to find on some audible sites (Germany for example). I only found it through a forum link since it didn’t show up when you searched under Richard Armitage or the title. I’m still not sure what that was about, but I thought it was nice that it was free around Christmas. Good promotion and a nice gesture.

  20. Can’t agree more with you on this, Servetus. I was really disappointed when I heard his next project will be Romeo and Juliet.
    Who suffered through a scene of naked Romeo and Juliet spending 20 minutes in bed together in a theatre really had more than enough of them for a lifetime. (Covers would have been convenient, but were omitted.)
    I already read the text in three different complete versions, any more of this would be overkill and not even RA could make me enjoy listening to it. Though I must admit, I visited the supposedly original balcony – just for luck (or lack of it) ;o)

  21. Yeah, Romeo and Juliet doesn’t really do it for me either but I didn’t mind David Copperfield! Having said that – I don’t do any audiobooks really, not even with the delightful Armitage voice. So far I’ve only ever listened to excerpts and I only have a few of the audiobooks he’s done, only becasue I’m an RA fan, not because I intend to really listen to them. So, it would have to be one very bold (and not too long) novel that would get me listening in the first place…

    • I wonder how their price point affects their decision with regard to length — i.e., $14.95 might be considered too much to pay for what is essentially 4 discs (they Heyer novels). I’d be up for something not so long, too, but if their base price is $14.95 for a credit, that might not be so convincing to consumers.

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