照片上的这位慈祥的大妈名叫弗洛·吉布森（Flo Gibson），an Audio-Book Reader。本月7日，她在华盛顿的家中去世，享年86岁。在我国，可能她应该会被划归“说书艺人”一类吧。但她只是读书——很平静地读书。很多人都喜欢在健身或者在驾车的时候听她和缓的朗读文学名著。她一生录制了1134部文学作品。短则几个小时，长则十二、三小时。她为经典文学的推广和普及做出了巨大的贡献。难怪《纽约时报》书评栏专文纪念她的去世。原文如下：
January 15, 2011
Flo Gibson, Grande Dame of Audiobooks, Dies at 86
By MARGALIT FOX
Flo Gibson, who for decades read soothingly to Americans as they toiled at the gym, behind the wheel or over housework, died on Jan. 7 at her home in Washington. Mrs. Gibson, the universally acknowledged grande dame of audiobooks, was 86.
The cause was cancer, her daughter Carrie Gibson said. At her death, Mrs. Gibson was halfway through taping “Les Misérables,” which would have been, give or take a title or two, the 1,134th recorded book of her career.
Mrs. Gibson was the founder of, and chief reader for, Audio Book Contractors, which she ran for nearly three decades from a specially built recording studio in the basement of her home. The company produces audiobooks for sale to libraries and individual consumers.
Audio Book Contractors, which specializes in unabridged recordings of the classics, seeks out an audience for whom a well-told story on tape and the latest bodice-ripper tend to be mutually exclusive. (That said, Mrs. Gibson did record “East Lynne,” an 1861 novel by Mrs. Henry Wood that The Chicago Tribune once cheerfully described as “riveting Victorian smut.”)
Known for her impeccable diction — she was a former radio actress — and scrupulous fealty to the text, Mrs. Gibson narrated everything from “The Wind in the Willows” to capacious adult books like “Pride and Prejudice” (11 hours, 41 minutes) and “Middlemarch,” which spans 31 hours, 7 minutes, over 24 cassettes, an effort that took her more than 10 weeks in the studio.
Today, thousands of audiobooks appear annually — read by authors, celebrities and professional voice-over artists — and other companies besides hers do the classics. But Mrs. Gibson’s work, colleagues say, was notable on several counts.
For one thing, she was an early entrant in the field, starting out in the mid-1970s recording talking books for the blind for the Library of Congress. She went on to found Audio Book Contractors well before recorded books were commonplace in stores and libraries.
For another, she was almost certainly the field’s most prolific practitioner. A busy voice-over artist might typically narrate several hundred books in a career; to record more than 1,100, as Mrs. Gibson did, is almost beyond contemplation.
What was more, reviewers agreed that if one were to invest, say, the 36 hours and 7 minutes required to hear “Anna Karenina,” then there was no better voice to hear it in than Mrs. Gibson’s: deep and throaty, it evoked a firm but favorite schoolteacher and let her juggle men’s and women’s roles with ease.
Mrs. Gibson was also praised for her meticulous preparation (to tackle the Brontë sisters, she haunted Yorkshire to soak up dialect) and for the intimate compact that appeared to exist between her and the listener. As she often said, she approached every narration as if she were playing to an audience of one.
Her scrapbooks of fan mail attest to the results. An upholsterer’s assistant once wrote Mrs. Gibson to say that her “Pride and Prejudice” had made “the stitches melt down into insignificance” as she labored over an antique chair.
Florence Corona Anderson was born in San Francisco on Feb. 7, 1924. After earning a bachelor’s degree in dramatic literature from the University of California, Berkeley, she studied with the noted acting teacher Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York.
She acted in several West Coast radio serials — including “Pat Novak for Hire,” which starred a young Jack Webb — before marrying Carlos Gibson, a Peruvian diplomat, and raising four children.
Soon after her youngest child left for college, Mrs. Gibson auditioned for the Library of Congress and was accepted. She later narrated books on tape for several commercial producers before starting Audio Book Contractors in 1983.
As Mrs. Gibson discovered, a narrator’s experience of literature differs crucially from a civilian’s. Though she adored Henry James, she was often moved to shake her fist and shout at him: “Why don’t you punctuate? Why don’t you paragraph?” She invariably forgave him, though, and recorded much of his work.
Mrs. Gibson’s husband, whom she married in 1947, died in 1989. Besides her daughter Carrie, she is survived by two other daughters, Nancy Gibson, known as Derry, and Katherine Gibson Bolland; a brother, Buck Anderson; and three grandchildren. A son, Chris, died in 1985.
Audio Book Contractors, which offers hundreds of books on tape and CD, continues to operate. Many of its titles, including dozens narrated by Mrs. Gibson, can also be purchased as digital downloads from audible.com.
What with treadmills and traffic and troublesome chairs, her voice will soothe listeners for decades to come.