The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde and of ProgRAmmatic PaRAnoia

Please bear with me, readers, I’m on a daily post streak at the moment… thanks to weekly instalments of BS, new interviews, and miscellanea – such as today’s doodle post that mashes a mini review with some silly fun. You see, I’ve been feeling paranoid recently… It started harmlessly enough, when I finally took the plunge and subscribed to Audible last week.

1) The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

My first download: Richard Armitage’s latest audiobook, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. In typical Guylty fashion, it was a fairly spontaneous purchase, conducted literally minutes before getting on the airport bus for a trip back home. And despite my audio reluctance, the audiobook has really met my approval – a fascinating and immersive listening experience, thanks to Armitage’s capabilities as a narrator.

Or let me rephrase that – he doesn’t just narrate a book. He orally *acts* it. Or as it says on the cover: “performs”. That is an adequate description of what sets Armitage apart from other narrators: Rather than just reading aloud a text much like a reader, Armitage simultaneously acts as narrator and cast of characters. He narrates the plot, but acts the direct speech of the various characters.

Fans of the actor have always known that Armitage’s voice is one of his greatest assets. For the narration of J&H takes his voice half-way down to the basement, lowering it to a shiver-inducing pitch that suits Stevenson’s gothic novel. For instance, he voices Utterson with a somewhat warm, yet “naive” undertone which makes us identify with the lawyer. Jekyll receives a crisp, almost arrogant and clear accent that contrasts even more heavily with the rougher, dark-accented alter ego Hyde. And Armitage doesn’t just reserve his voice acting for the main characters, but even minor figures come to life thanks to the Armitage magic. Take for instance the newsboy in chapter 5 – with a dulcet pitch, the boy comes alive (and made me think of young Kenneth from LLL). How he actually keeps up with applying the right kind of voice to the respective characters, always astounds me. It is easy enough to distinguish two voices in direct contrast. But if you have to return to a previously voiced character after several sentences/chapters, it is actually very difficult to hit *exactly* the same pitch again. (This is actually something which I observed in a former job as a producer of audio material: When a speaker/reader stumbles over a word and makes a mistake during an audio recording, you always ask them to repeat the *whole* sentence, never just the individual word they stumbled over. Reason being that you can usually detect a minute pitch difference within that “patched-up” sentence. Such a patch is less obvious when it occurs after a full stop.)

Richard Armitage reads analog…

And of course Armitage’s treatment of the characters does not end with different accents and tones of voice. His real power lies in “playing” the direct speech of his characters. An exclamation of astonishment sounds surprised; a character who has just been in a fight sounds out of breath; a deathly sick character sounds weak and frail. Thus the characters come to life, and an audiobook becomes a performance. In case of J&H this is particularly obvious in the two eponymous characters. When Jekyll recounts the story of him becoming Hyde, Armitage does an amazing job of contrasting the two voices. As a listener, you have no doubt when you are listening to Jekyll and when to Hyde. He even manages to represent the gradual transformation from Hyde back to Jekyll.

In conclusion: Even an old story whose punch line is known to almost everyone, becomes exciting and new, given the Armitage treatment. The man has got audio performance down to a tee. Nonetheless, a little niggle  from my side: The piece could have benefitted from a little more editing. Even super-narrator Armitage occasionally slips up and stumbles over a word, and that is fine because such little stammers are usually edited out. However, a few such glitches were audible in the recording. For the hefty price of £43 or $59 for the Monster Collection, I would have expected a little more attention to detail! That has cost you a star, Audible! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️(⭐️)

2) The Strange Case of My Digital Paranoia

But how does J&H feed into paranoia? Well, it *is* a classic gothic story – just like paranoia is classic horror material. But my paranoia was actually digital. So, picking up the thread I started in the introductory paragraph… I had downloaded J&H. Guylty was absorbed in the audiobook, all was well. Then, the next day, I was carrying out my usual work (even on holiday!), when I suddenly noticed Mr Armitage smiling non-committally at me from the side bar of my favourite translation site.

A welcome sight, no doubt. I’ll take that distraction any day, thank you very much.

But boy, I felt slightly haunted when Mr A kept popping up all over the shop! After my translation site, his vignetted portrait appeared in the middle of a BS review. Watching some crafting videos on Youtube, I did a double take when the unmistakable eye/nose area of a certain actor, half obstructed by Audible-orange, flashed at me from the ad space on the right. Jaysis, gave me a fright. And he just kept on coming… on the landing page of my e-mail provider, even as a banner ad on the RTE Player where I attempted to cheat Armitage listen to an interview with Cillian Murphy.

Creepy? Nah. Not when it’s Armitage 😉. And it is easily explained. That is actually what is called “retargeting” – ads following you around after you have engaged with a particular type of commercial content on a given website. Welcome to the wonderful world of programmatic advertising! Full disclosure: That is actually my area of specialisation as a journalist… Before you shoot me: I’m not responsible for this kind of advertising. I merely write about the industry and its technological evolution. And I can tell you one thing: My experience with the Armitage/Audible retargeting is the prime example of programmatic crap. Essentially Audible have wasted their advertising dollars on me because they retargeted me with irrelevant ad content. Not that Mr A is irrelevant – far from it. But with making a sale being advertising’s prime objective, there was little point in showing me an ad for something I had already purchased… #fail. And from a professional perspective, this is actually an interesting experience for me. I hardly ever notice ads (I am what is called “ad blind” – I simply never look there), but thanks to RA’s fetching forehead and handsome hairline, I have now had the full ad experience…




27 thoughts on “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde and of ProgRAmmatic PaRAnoia

  1. At least all you got was lots of RA, which is a plus. I normally get pursued by irrelevant ads after I’ve been researching for fics, and believe me I do not want to buy wellies for a four year old!

    I’d love to hear Jekyll & Hyde, but £43 is too much I’m afraid.


    • LOL – I probably get that kind of irrelevant advertising on my screen, too. Except I never look. In that sense, the advertising industry could make LOADS of money if they plastered Armitage’s mug on every ad. It would *sure* catch my attention 😉
      And yes, exorbitant price. I wouldn’t have shelled out that much money if I hadn’t been given a free credit for signing up to Audible…


  2. I looked once at what FB thinks I’m interested in, and obviously my surfing pattern is way too complex for their algorithm to really understand. It can’t accommodate the fact that I’m really interested in Xty without being Xian, for instance — so I get church ads for the kinds of churches I would be least likely ever to visit. I doesn’t understand that someone who sees herself as a liberal would read so many conservative and ultra-conservative news sources. As a result they frequently serve me with ads for things I find offensive. However, I don’t click to get rid of them, either, unless it’s really extreme. Let them be confused.


    • That’s where programmatic advertising will always fall down – the algorithm only takes into account what you *do* (as in: what you look at, what you click on, possibly where you are, as well as some demographic data that is also available about you due to website registrations etc.) , but it can never know what you *think*. I don’t think advertising will ever achieve 100% relevance. But that’s also due to the needs of advertisers and audience being fundamentally opposed…
      I also never click ads away – far too much effort. I just ignore them.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think what’s troublesome about this is that it seems to be the same that government surveillance works. Almost 20 years ago now I assigned my English comp students to write about a controversial subject and someone wrote about internet porn and got into all kinds of trouble with the university sysadmin who thought the student was surfing for porn, not trying to form an opinion for an expository paper assignment. And since the Patriot Act it’s all been potentially much worse. Do you check out Nabokov’s Lolita (assuming it’s in your library) if you know that someone could know that information and use it against you? It’s infuriating that we spend so much time teaching people how to think critically and with nuance but the people who watch us can’t accommodate that at all. It hasn’t tamped down my curiosity at all but it definitely has made me more cautious. Last night the newspapers were all reporting that there are now manuals about how to carry out a car bomb / terror attack, including one published on the internet by ISIL. I thought, huh, that would be interesting and then I thought, not so interesting that I necessarily want it tracked that I read it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • As much as surveillance is helping foil plots or tracing fraud and villains, the downside of it is that it essentially leads to self-censorship. And once again – the picture that we create online is not representative of our thoughts. While you and I self-censor and avoid anything that could be construed against us, those who want to access information for criminal reasons, will find ways to do so without being detected/identified/traced. IT may have liberated us in some ways – and it simultaneously has made us transparent.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Like you, Guylty, I was unexpectedly surprised by how much I enjoyed Dr J and Mr H I thought that in some way this was even a more difficult lift for finding voices, because about 4 characters have more or less the same background and accent – yet he differentiated. My favorite digital ad story takes place during some early research on Lucas North’s apartments (flats) in Spooks/Mi5. I admired a knife block he had in one kitchen, and was trying to find it on line. For weeks afterwards, I was finding ads for knife blocks, knife sets and individual kitchen knives. But alas, no photo of Richard Armitage.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s really to Mr A’s credit that he manages to set 4 characters apart who are actually more or less of the same accent group…
      LOL on your knife story… I admit, my own programmatic paranoia is somewhat pleasant. At least I am getting to see RA’s grin plastered all over my screen. There could be worse. (Note to self: Do not search for Donald Trump’s picture!!!)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You made me smile and giggle 🙂 Not because of the add although i wouldn’t mind being pursued by RA ads LOL I have never clicked on an ad in my life and i rarely notice them other than in my yahoo email which tends to display my purchases either groceries, cosmetics, shoes or clothes from the shops i normally buy from so no biggie as id never buy something just because it’s advertised, their waste of resources, not mine 😉

    But yeah, i could literally copy paste what you said about him as a narrator to every narration of his i have listened to. I kept saying that i think you would like it if you just gave it a listen. I still don’t know how people listen while multitasking but i can’t and i suspect neither can you. Once you are a trapped listener, ie not distracted by anything else his skills really shine and they are exceptional in my opinion. I find it interesting that it’s this one of all things which captures you 🙂 I find it almost least interesting, but not his fault that the books itself disappoints me. I was expecting more of the book, he certainly does his best. But i am up to hear of these Victorian lawyers and doctors and ‘decent’ individuals. Maybe i’ve watched too many documentaries recently about all sorts of Victorians and their achievements and morals. This reeks of the same in a way that i find utterly irritating and moralistic. Which is why unlike myself i am struggling with it a bit,but i will finish as more than half way through. Proof that he can make me ‘read’ almost anything. he can bring characters to life like noone else! And it never feels like he himself is ‘reading’. Maybe i also missed his females in this book so filled with starched up, pompous and moral men 😉


    • The retargeting is still in full swing. Armitage is still smiling on Linguee… still manages to make me do a double-take…
      Yes, the fact that I can’t listen to an audiobook while multitasking, is one of the reasons I am not a fan of the genre. I could *never* listen to an audio book while writing something, and I even find my mind wandering when I am listening while working with my hands. Whether it is baking a cake or creating a shrine – I just can’t give the audiobook the proper attention. If I had a long way to work, I can see how audio books would be the ideal companion. As it is, I have no time/opportunity to devote my attention to listening, as much as I would like to, for Armitage’s sake.
      In terms of the text in question – fully agree. The story itself is so well-known that the audiobook really is not a particularly original experience. Even RA’s Heyer narrations were more interesting in that respect. And as you said – they also had the added attraction of having female voices/characters in it. And those are incredibly fun to hear when Armitage makes them up…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Well, congratulations on never being boring in five years. Quite an accomplishment for anyone, blogger or nonblogger. Five years of fabulous shrining and commentary, not to mention roundups and everything else. You have quite a reputation to live up to, but I know you can do it.


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