That John Malkovich is good at performing amusing readings of stories should come as no surprise. The man’s voice is so singular, so evocative of a particular tone and personality, that it’s both instantly recognizable and instantly able to tune your mind into a certain peculiar state. If you don’t believe me, just hear him read “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” on Saturday Night Live and experience how quickly a whimsical tale about Santa visiting your house becomes a surreal journey into fear and awkwardness.
Though his onscreen talents are, of course, prodigious, it’s kind of a shame that Malkovich hasn’t spend more time delighting us with nothing but his voice, which is why it was so refreshing to learn that one of his recent projects was performing the audiobook narration for Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Breakfast of Champions. It’s not something you might often think about, but Vonnegut’s particularly strange sensibilities are kind of a perfect fit for Malkovich’s voice, and the end product was…well, I’ll let Michael Ian Black – reviewing the recording for The New York Times – explain.
“Hearing Malkovich describe the cartoons ('And here is a picture of a beaver’) is one of the delights of listening to 'Breakfast of Champions’ being read aloud by an actor whose droll delivery pairs well with Vonnegut’s irascible charms. Malkovich plays the book straight, reading the words with care, letting the text flow without actorly comment. He uses no character voices, and his own purring vocal tone is so distinct that we know who is reading to us without his having to draw any attention to himself. This is, I suppose, as it should be. The stars here are the story and the ideas and Vonnegut himself, who is always funny in the way that banging your knee can sometimes be funny: You hurt like hell and so the only thing to do about it is laugh. Such laughter would not have been necessary in a better universe, but, alas, we are stuck with the one we have, and thankfully we have Kurt Vonnegut to dull the pain.”
And if that didn’t convince you, listen…It’s a book about parallel universes in which the author appears as himself, narrated by John Malkovich, a guy who once played himself in a movie about a portal into his own brain. How do you say no to that? And if you’re still not convinced, listen to this trippy excerpt:
Breakfast of Champions, narrated by John Malkovich, is available now.