About the audiobook: Audible’s annual holiday freebie runs 72 minutes and collects five short “holiday stories from beloved authors and great performers across the globe.” What that specifically entails are:
- “Zip Code 12345.” A This-American-Life-style documentary about the Schenectady headquarters of General Electric, which gets all letters addressed to Santa at that ZIP code. There are some cute moments, and some genuinely poignant revelations about kids who write to Santa asking for basic necessities — like freaking health care, because we’re Making America Great Again.
- “An Aussie Night Before Christmas.” Magda Szubanksi’s narration of Yvonne Morrison’s 2006 picture book is strictly for those who really get off on just hearing an Australian accent.
- “The Music Coming from Within the House.” A very short Paolo Coehlo story, narrated by Daniel Frances-Berenson. Sometimes kings are nice…but we knew that, right? Frankincense and myrrh and all that jazz?
- “The Signal-man.” Audible makes a point of telling you that this Charles Dickens story was originally published in a Christmas periodical, because there’s otherwise nothing really Christmasy about it. Still, narrator Simon Callow digs deep into the murky ambience of this railroad-related ghost story.
- “A Very Improvised Holiday Musical.” It may be possible to translate the energy of live improv comedy to audio…but if so, this deeply unfunny segment doesn’t provide any evidence to that effect.
In short (and it is short), Gather ‘Round the Sound isn’t worth interrupting your page-turner for, but if you’re looking for a quick shot of holiday spirit, go for it. Just skip the improv.
Most Christmasy moment: The bit about the Chinese kids who write to Santa to tell him they’ve been good…and don’t even ask for anything. They just want him to know.
Least Christmasy moment: Pick any one of the sudden deaths in “The Signal-man.” I’d nominate the “beautiful young lady” who just dies instantaneously in a train compartment, for no clear reason. All is calm…unnaturally calm.