Thursday, November 19, 2020

William Mortensen Vaughan's Top 5 Audible Adaptations of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol

1. A Christmas Carol in prose, being a ghost story of Christmas:  With original art and narration by Jon Langford (free download available at the Google Play Store)

2. A Christmas Carol (AmazonClassics Edition) (unabridged) by Charles Dickens; narrated by Michael Page; available in Whispersync compatible Kindle and Audible editions

3.  A Christmas Carol:  A Signature Performance by Tim Curry 

4.  A Christmas Carol, narrated by Gerald Dickens

5.  A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and R.D. Carstairs; narrated by Sir Derek Jacobi, Kenneth Cranham, Roger Allam, Brendan Coyle, Miriam Margolyes, Tim Mcinnerny, Jamie Glover, Emily Bruni, Jenna Coleman, Joshua James, Hugh Skinner

Last month, I listed my "Top 6 Hard Copy Editions of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol"; this month, I'm listing my "Top 6 Soft Copy Editions of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol."

When I start talking about various adaptations or editions of A Christmas Carol, the first thing people are inclined to tell me, is that you can read it for free at Gutenberg. I know you can also download various versions of from Gutenberg. None of these make my list, because they're not audible. All of the editions I list are audible. Items 1 and 2 include legible editions with the option to have a bot read them aloud, highlighting the text as they read it, so you can follow along. None of them are abridged; if anything, Item 5 is expanded. None of them include video; top video adaptations will be the topic of my next blog post on 

Since I live in a remote part of the world, where internet connections are tenuous, one of the first things I look for in soft copies of anything, is the ability to access it offline.

Another thing I look for with regard to a soft copy of A Christmas Carol, is that it be complete, or unabridged, and I don't just take an advertiser's word that an edition of A Christmas Carol is unabridged, either. I check for two things:  audio length, which should be about three hours; and several key references which are usually left out of abridged editions:

     a.  security:  At the beginning of Stave Two, Ebenezer Scrooge wakes up just before twelve-o'-clock, and, wondering what time it is, he listens as "the chimes of a neighbouring church [strike] the four quarters." Because it is dark outside, and the fact that it "was past two [a.m.] when he went to bed," Scrooge wonders if he slept throughout the entire day and into the next night, or if the sun failed to rise that day, leaving the world in darkness at noon. This thought disturbs him, because without the sun to mark the passage of time, he will not be able to determine when people owe him money, and more than one of his assets would "become a mere United States’ security." This is an insult to residents of the United States of America, based on the assumption that investments in the United States of America were unprofitable.

     b.  Caroline:  In Stave Four, after showing Scrooge a corpse, but before showing him the Cratchit family bereft of Tiny Tim, the Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come shows this woman, named Caroline, to Scrooge, in her home, when her husband arrives to inform her that their creditor has died.

     c.  Laoco├Ân:  In Stave Five, Ebenezer Scrooge, having difficulty dressing himself, is compared to this legendary, Trojan priest of Apollo, who, along with his sons, was crushed by sea serpents.

The dieresis is unnecessary when running a search for this name, which brings us to another feature that I look for in soft copy editions of any written material:  A search engine.

As mentioned above, another feature I look for in soft copy editions of books, is the optional accompaniment of a voice(s) to read them aloud in synchrony with highlighting the text as it is read. Amazon calls its version of this service for its Kindle ebooks and compatible Audible books, Whispersync.  When purchasing Audibles or Kindle ebooks, Amazon usually offers the compatible version of the other version at a reduced price. 

Whispersync is not the only version of this service, but it is the best I've experienced. 

The Jon Langford edition of A Christmas Carol is free to download from Google Play Store, which brings us to another feature of anything on the market:  price.

As I was saying, the Jon Langford edition of A Christmas Carol is free, and it has an optional, Whispersync-like service, but the voice which reads this edition aloud sounds like a robot or a computer. Oddly, this robot sounds like a woman, although there are Play buttons under several photographs which allow you to play recordings of a man reciting lines from the novel. Perhaps this man is Jon Langford, a Welsh man and professional musician who formed several musical ensembles, including The Mekons, The Three Johns, The Waco Brothers, and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts. Inscriptions under the photographs indicate that the pictures were taken decades before Jon was born, (allegedly in 1957) casting doubt on the veracity of the advertisement about "original art by" him.

Lots of Audible adaptations of A Christmas Carol are available, which are read by actors with varying degrees of fame and popularity. I find these more entertaining than listening to a robot. 

A Christmas Carol (AmazonClassics Edition) by: Charles Dickens, narrated by: Michael Page is Amazon's Whispersync adaptation. The ebook costs about $5; and the Audible, about $15, but you usually get a break if you buy them together. Personally, I recommend buying both versions of any Whispersync pair. If it's worth buying in one version, it's worth buying the other, compatible version.

Other actors who narrate Audible editions of A Christmas Carol include Tim Curry and Sir Patrick Stewart, which call to mind something else connoisseurs might want to take into consideration when buying audible adaptations:  the nationality of the narrator. Both Tim Curry and Sir Patrick Stewart are British, so their accents go well with A Christmas Carol, which is set in London. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) Patrick Stewart's audible adaptation (not to be confused with the film version released in 1999, in which he starred as Scrooge) is abridged.

With that in mind, I recommend the unabridged, Audible adaptation by Gerald Roderick Charles Dickens, who is not only British, but the great-great grandson of Charles Dickens himself. His father was David Kenneth Charles Dickens (1925-2005); and his mother, Betty (1927–2010). His grandfather was Admiral Gerald Charles Dickens RN (Royal Navy)(1879-1962); his great grandfather, Dickens' son, Sir Henry Fielding Dickens KC (Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath)(1849-1933).

In some cases, entire casts of actors perform on Audible adaptations, with background music and sound effects, as if they were old fashioned, radio shows. My favorite such Audible adaptation of A Christmas Carol, is the five-part series, rewritten by R.D. Carstairs, which features the voices of Sir Derek Jacobi, Kenneth Cranham, Roger Allam, Brendan Coyle, Miriam Margolyes, Tim Mcinnerny, Jamie Glover, Emily Bruni, Jenna Coleman, Joshua James, Hugh Skinner.

When searching for the phrase "a christmas carol" on, it lists 263 results. Some of them are irrelevant, exempli gratia, This Time Together:  Laughter and Reflection by Carol Burnett. But it's safe to say there are dozens of audible adaptations of A Christmas Carol. These are my five favorites.

Guest blog post by William Mortensen Vaughan



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