Thought Audio (part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4)
Reader: Michael Scott
The story: Tricked by a friend into talking to Simon Wheeler, an old man with a tendency to ramble, the narrator hears the story of Jim Smiley. Smiley is the kind of guy who would bet on anything, but his prize bet-winner is his frog Dan'l Webster. With this highly-trained super-frog Smiley can beat any other challenger . . . or so he thinks.
The genius of this story isn't in the plot itself, which is a fairly standard trickster getting tricked folktale. Instead, Twain produces laughs from the over-the-top characters and his trademark front-porch storyteller's style. Twain paints a recognizable, if somewhat hyperbolic, portrait of the long-winded storyteller Simon Wheeler, sort of a proto-Grampa Simpson. Twain's style is clearly based on the oral tradition of tall tales of the American frontier. This spoken-word origin of the story is what makes it adapt so well to an audio version.
The reader: Michael Scott is a professional reader with a great recording setup. In this story, he adds a bit of a twang to his voice to approximate the language of Mark Twain. The result is a well-made piece of audio humor. Although the story is only 17 minutes long, it's separated into four parts, which to me seems a bit excessive, but could be helpful for those burning it to CD.