He assumed the voice of every character and enthusiastically made every sound (yes, including the loud throw-up scene when Jason Taylor takes his first drags from a cigarette) in a big, I'm delighted to be here and reading my stuff and I'm having so much fun kind of way. And his arms. His arms flailed about. When a big character spoke, our Swan Man got big, shoulders up, head up, voice...big. When a smaller character spoke (Jason Taylor), the Swan Man scrunched down a bit, became little.
Callie Miller's description of David Mitchell giving a reading from his new Black Swan Green reminded me of our own experience: Es, Matt and I went to see him talk with Alex Clark at the Bloomsbury theatre earlier this month, and although some of his shy, self-conscious humour has probably been road-tested and honed slightly on the talk circuit, Mitchell was utterly charming and very funny. It made me like his books more. And this week it was chosen as the Book at Bedtime on Radio4. Stuart McLoughlin, who has or is acting Mitchell's Worcester accent, gives a brilliant reading. From the little heard so far, the comparison to Toby Litt's deadkidsongs will be interesting.
These made me wonder whether Black Swan Green would be better read with the ears than the eyes. So I have bought the (unfortunately abridged) audio book, read by Krisopher Milnes, to hear it before I read it.
Callie Miller again:
His reading was also powerful in a much more subtle way. The central character in Black Swan Green is a 13-year old boy (Jason Taylor) who has a stuttering problem [... and] is modeled, even if loosely, on David Mitchell's own adolescent stuttering problem. Armed with this knowledge -- or even without it -- witnessing our Swan Man read the stuttering passages, you notice that he stutters. At first, I thought he was stuttering on cue, just as he made loud throw-up noises on cue for the other passages. I thought it was part of the Swan Show. Yet the more he read -- the more ground he covered without intentional stuttering passages -- the more I became aware that he stuttered himself, ever so slightly. Certain words tripped him up. He got nervous and read through those sections quickly, bumbling & stumbling a bit. Just a bit. A hint. A faint breath of a stutter. But it was still there, all these years later. In those moments, he (unwittingly or no?) made Jason Taylor's public stuttering pain all the more real. His own character became more alive because of Mitchell's own, very public, stuttering.