I would love to see a commercial album of professional dramatic readings of John Dos Passos–especially self-contained passages in the USA trilogy like the biographies. I tried my hand at a short bio reading today. After multiple takes, I recorded a solid reading of “Prince of Peace” from The 4nd Parallel. “Prince of Peace” is the condensed bio on Andrew Carnegie.
When I was in high school, our English teacher played recordings of Dylan Thomas reading his poetry. So I had an early inclination toward understanding how spoken word magic can influence and elevate a written text. My memory of listening to Thomas reading “Do not go gentle into that good night” attests to the pure drama of the piece. Maybe Thomas’ Welsh accent gave an extra bit of style, too.
I think there are a couple key ingredients to reading the Dos Passos biographies in USA: energy, speed, and satire. I don’t those often coincide in written matter. They’re more often the province of Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart on television.
So, my reading of “Prince of Peace” is driven by those elements: energy, speed, satire. I tried to undercut Carnegie a bit as I built him up. Because that’s what I believe my grandfather intended. Tone is vital to the bios.
I may try more readings in the future. I think it’s a great way to publicize his writing and I think that for auditory learners, a solid vocal interpretation can reveal new realms of meaning.
My recorded reading–about 2 minutes long–is below. Enjoy! On Edit, I’ve added an MP3 version