Friday, November 9, 2012

Multi-Media, November 9, 2012

In Praise of Elizabeth Klett
The best of a website you should know about
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

A few years ago I spent a lot of time in the hospital. It was a bad hospital and I was sharing a room with three other people, two of whom were senile and late-night screamers. Watching TV late into the night, which I would normally have done, was out of the question as the volume necessary to hearing a program would have only joined the screamers in a hideous chorus that would have kept the whole floor awake. Reading was also out as the light...etc.

This is when I discovered audio books in a big way. However, being in the hospital (and therefore out of work) meant I did not have a huge budget for such things. A Google search later and I discovered a website that solved all my problems: the miracle of Librivox.

Librivox is run by volunteers who read public domain books which can be downloaded to your iPod or other mp3 player. The good folk at Librivox - simply - saved my sanity.

(Can you tell, I love these people?)

I am going to tread very softly as I continue and try to be as positive as possible because - let me restate - these people are volunteers. What this means is that many of them are simply kind...not great readers. You get thick accents, slurring of words, humming microphones. In a hospital setting this is not much of a bother because there is something quite soothing in someone - no matter who - reading to you. And  there is joy to be had even in a thick Barbadian accent plowing through Thackeray. (Can you tell, I love these people?)

There are thousands of books available for download at the site. You can see which ones are read by which readers (and which, like the big books, are read by many readers of varrying skill levels). But I am going to draw you to my favourite (you will find yours). Elizabeth Klett has found a niche in reading works by women novelists. I've listened to her readings of Edith Wharton, Jane Austen, the Brontës and Louisa May Alcott and am now ear-devouring her rendition of Mary Elizabeth Braddon's potboiler, Lady Audley's Secret. Klett does such a wondrous job on Wharton's House of Mirth I have listened to it twice and have not removed it from my iPod.

Klett has a pure, mid-toned voice, does characters, sometimes very convincing accents, and clearly adores the writing of these women. The quality of her recordings has gotten her jobs in the paying audio book industry and you can see a kind of evolution in her work (especially in its sound quality).

This is not to say Klett is Librivox's only fine reader. I was throughly entertained by Mark Nelson's readings of the Jeeves books because - somehow - his robust American accent captures perfectly the delicious stupidity of PG Wodehouse's Bertie Wooster.

What I am asking you to do - dear people who love books - is to go, browse, listen and volunteer. I hope to do just that myself in the future if only to thank Ms Klett for getting me through long, long nights in the hospital.

The Librivox website
Elizabeth Klett's website


  1. I couldn't agree with you more. I stumbled on Librivox and then on to Elizabeth's reading in a similar way. I then found her website and found we had many other things in common, like knitting and sewing as well as a love of books.

    Your assessment of Librivox is honest and I was grateful that anyone would take the time to read so others could appreciate the known as well as the little-known classics that they might never otherwise picked up. The beauty of Librivox is that you don't even have to have a computer or iPod to still use it. You can go to your public library and listen to the books on one of their computers.
    I recommend this site to everyone I meet. It is great for kid's that don't want to read and won't read the classic that has been assigned to them in middle or high school or maybe even college. I homeschooled a child in 10th grade and we listened together to Frankenstein and Sense and Sensibility. It was a wonderful experience and got her through a course she would have not completed if left to read the formal language on her own. We were able to sit in front of the computer together, listen, pause, discuss and then move on. Frankenstein surprised her the most as she was expecting what she knew from poorly interpreted movies.

    Thank you for posting this appraisal of Librivox and continue to share your favorites so others can enjoy them.

  2. Thank you for recognizing not just Librivox but Elizabeth Klett, too -- she's my favorite reading voice as well. Like you, I keep some Klett recordings (Persuasion and Jane Eyre) on my iPod at all times.

    If you'd like to hear her as part of an ensemble doing a fantastic reading of Dracula, go over to the CraftLit website and look for the "just the books" version (recorded without the references to knitting).

  3. I agree 100%! I read Elizabeth's blog for her knitting content before she began reading for Librivox and was pleased to see her get recognition in the form of paying work. Other women Librivox readers I've really enjoyed are Brenda Dayne (another knitter, who did a terrific recording of The Age of Innocence, like Elizabeth) and Ruth Golding, who greatly enhanced my enjoyment of Wuthering Heights with her many British accents and wonderful diction.

    I adore Librivox too, and the lovely volunteers who give so freely of their time, energy and passion.

  4. I must agree! I am a painter, and I paint little tiny dolls about 6 hours a day, and Elizabeth Klett's book-reading has definitely helped me along the way! Thanks for sharing your story :)

  5. I agree, too! Elizabeth Klett is fantastic. And funnily enough, Mark Nelson's Jeeves & Wooster is also a favourite of mine.

    Unfortunately I just finished listening to another story of which I actually lost the plot because the reader was so hard to understand. Well, I guess since it is all free, I can't complain too much!


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