Friday, August 15, 2014


Another reposting of an entry recently appearing on the Plum Tree Books page on Facebook.

I continue to be thankful for the existence of, a place where volunteers cooperatively interact to create audiobooks drawn from the multitude of written works available in the public domain. I think of it as my own personal prosodic playground, where I can experiment and push myself in ways not feasible in the commercial audiobook domain.

But just because a playground is a playground, doesn't mean that one won’t encounter ethical quandaries there, and the LibriVox playground is no exception. In my recent meanderings through the LibriVox forums I stumbled across a fascinating project to create an audiobook version of THE RISE AND FALL OF THE CONFEDERATE GOVERNMENT by Jefferson Davis. Overcome with curiosity, I immediately volunteered to produce one of the most vitriolic and incendiary chapters in the book, and submitted the completed recording a few days later.

Here’s the thing: we live in a world in which a great many people willingly submit themselves, mind and soul, to ideological subjugation based mostly upon the STYLE with which an argument is presented to them, with little (if any) regard to its SUBSTANCE. In such a world, what might be done (for good or for ill) with a passionately-rendered recording of the words of a major historical figure, words which in part serve to frame absolutely reprehensible ideas and ideals (as when Davis obliquely refers to slavery as a "wise and useful institution")?

When I record Davis’s words, should I give them a perfunctory reading with little or no inflection, simply to enter his work into "the public record" with little chance of anyone thinking that I (the narrator) might agree with him? It not being in my nature to give "perfunctory readings" of anything, I chose what I thought was a middle road: to assume his point of view, to try to get inside his head to a certain extent, and then read the words from some approximation of his apparent point of view, without going "over the top" and becoming a bloviated Thomas Nast caricature of Davis.

What do you think? Is it okay to produce earnestly and passionately voiced recordings of historical works which contain vile and abhorrent arguments? Was it okay for me to do it with this work of Jefferson Davis? Would it be okay for me to give a similar treatment to Adolf Hitler's MEIN KAMPF? Where do you draw the line, if any is to be drawn?

Here, for your consideration, is my recording of Chapter 42 of Volume 2 of THE RISE AND FALL OF THE CONFEDERATE GOVERNMENT, by Jefferson Davis (the erstwhile President of those same Confederate States):

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