Prince Harry, King of Audio

The royal audiobook narration of ‘Spare’ is the secret sauce behind the bestselling nonfiction title in history

This is a story about two things. One, Prince Harry has changed the book world forever. From the introduction onward, no reader will remain untouched.

Second … oh yeah. Har’ the Spare has toppled the monarchy and torn the Royal mystique asunder. But that’s not as important as the first matter.

It’s not just Harry’s message, but his medium, that came from “last in line” and upset the Empires.

The Red-Headed darling broke the Guinness record this month for fastest-selling nonfiction in history: topping 1.43 million copies in a single day; 3.2 million in the first week.

Watch your back, Harry Potter.

This record takes place in a century where critics have long lamented English literacy altogether. Prince Charming has changed the game, not merely by his pen but by his mic—Harry became a superstar in show business’s most underrated medium: Audio. Yes, we include audiobooks in that record-breaking sales number, in fact, they’re at its pinnacle. There’s no turning back.


BUY: Get your copy of Spare and support Book and Film Globe’s indie bookstore at the same time. Hardcover or buy the Audiobook at Libro and select “The Book House” as the store you support.


If you haven’t heard Darling Boy tell his story, with that voice that melts Irish butter, you haven’t really experienced it at all. You don’t grok the outbreak of Beatlemania-level worship. You’re not on the float. Fans are lauding The Prince as the best narrator of all time.

 

Prince Harry

 

Surely that’s a feverish exclamation of the moment, but in the realm of autobiography, Sussex has a solid claim for the crown, besting beloveds like Trevor Noah and Barack Obama. The dude has got it.

Much like the original “IT” girl, fellow redhead Clara Bow, the Prince possesses a sex appeal and charisma you cannot put in a bottle. Apparently you can record it.

Harry’s vocal gifts are on repeat-play, chapter by chapter, as he tucks his faithful listeners to bed, inspires them to reach for a vibrator—or clutch their precious Teddy. His uncanny mimicry of his characters, his vulnerability and nuance with the most intimate secrets and grief — no ghost writer can teach that. We laugh with him — and he laughs at himself often. We find ourselves in adult empathy with one of the most infantilized figures in the world. When Harry sings a lullaby, and recalls his pretend world as a babe where he thought Mummy was still alive, we commoners weep. In the excerpt below, he captures the dawn of the Elegiac Age.

 

 

The Artful Todger

In Chapter 43, when Harry discloses the nightmare of having genital frostbite and nowhere to turn—let me tell you, urologists and sex educators everywhere are applauding. “Harold” is so nonchalant talking about the trials and tribulations of his Todger, he has singlehandedly driven a stake in Anglo Saxon prudery. How many couples do you think integrated that little nickname in their bed-play this week? Women are whispering, I had no idea, tell me more . . . ” If the still-alive Dr. Ruth were still handing out such titles, she would crown Harry the King of Talking Good in Bed. Cheers!

 

 

The pundits who say the book is awful, a vat of TMI?—Sour grapes on their part. The Vox Populi beg to differ. The People Have Spoken, and they are ready to get real about their junk. About their grief. About their family estrangement. The fact that Harry’s Buckingham snow-globe version is so baroque only gives listeners a fresh perspective on their plebeian parallels. The Spare has succeeded where so many authors fail: a universal message.

Audio, the awkward step-child of the book world, is a perfect match for Harry’s come-from-behind success. This is a medium that only a generation ago was a thought of as a hobby for the blind! Some dopes are still calling it “Books on Tape,” but audio became a digital phenom at the turn of the 21st century, and a bonafide industry behemoth in the last decade. Audiobooks are the fastestgrowing reading medium, period, and, as you can tell from the price point, the most profitable. The audience is ravenous. Readers are desperate for sagas when their eyes and hands are busy elsewhere. And Harry’s story, his dulcet tones?—Worth its todger in gold.

Does every author make a compelling performance? God, no. There are writer’s bodies spread like ashes in the critical reviews of listeners who wish a famous author had never been allowed near a mic. It’s not for everyone. I cast audiobooks for twenty years and like our parallel professional in film, you can make or break a project on the actor. Now the pressure is on, and it won’t let up.

Dramatic talent aside, there’s unprecedented Spare content. Yeah, you think you know the kid’s mother. You’ve cringed at his romances. The Lad is too cute by half and inherited more blood diamonds than he knows what to do with.

 But we didn’t know the half of it. This guy has more material than Proust.

The Royal Nonesuch

Everyone will have their favorite tidbit. For me, it’s when Harry specifically tears British imperialism. He says “imperialism,” out loud! —With scorn! If only Nehru was alive to hear it!

 While our young Prince is still under the White Naïve Thrall™ that “black people are so much nicer to me than my own kind,” in his case it’s plausible— because his kind really are the WORST people you’ve ever heard of!

Spare’s ratting out of the utter pig-fuckery of court life, at every level of Royal betrayal and pretense, is something only Catherine of Medici could have unloosened in her time. It’s one thing to laugh at the petty cruelties of Tudor legends like Henry the 8th, and quite another to realize, the Royals are THIS stupid, THIS vain, and THIS preposterous — to THIS very day! No one can listen to such a memoir and not take the oath of an Irish Republican. (And it should be said, Ulster is the one place on earth where none of this came as a surprise).

Is Spare the endearing lament of a precocious spoiled child? Yes, and but. Like many such adult children, Harry’s tragedy is poignant as we sense he’s headed for more grief. We don’t want Hank to crack, but eggs and monarchies will break. Harry’s growing realization of his delayed adolescence is only now dawning. He writes, “Id been forced into this surreal state, this unending Truman Show in which I almost never carried money, never owned a car, never carried a house key, never once ordered anything online, never received a box from Amazon, almost never traveled on the Underground.”

Well, that’s the material list. The emotional one is worse. His pa and bro are his nemeses. He’s got a kill count from Afghanistan he’s not proud of, and more’s the point, profound guilt for having left his comrades in uniform to tend to tend to bend-the-knee come-hither’s. He routinely gets wasted, high as a kite, to forget his “responsibilities,” and he doesn’t care who knows it. He defends his first real love, Meghan, with the blind ferocity of a child who never got a chance to defend his mother from anything, let alone death by camera. Though he despises racism, his family has suckled on it. All his life has been recorded, as if by a Murdoch-ian MI5 nanny monitor, broadcast to the world.

Harry says he wants to “turn pain into purpose”—and perhaps this is where Jesuit forbearance enters the room. Does H receive divine guidance to not rule, but to repent, confess, and make global amends? It’s a tall order for the indulged and cosseted. Harry the Forever-Second’s must discard his sense of victimhood, while legit in miniature, if he’s to come of Middle Age. He must put away the Childish Things. The Empire’s disastrous wake is too large. There are more books to write, and this Artful Todger had better break the bank for his sophomore effort. The others are already lined up.

 

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Susie Bright

Susie Bright is an author, editor, and critic known for her work at Audible Studios, The New York Times Book Review, Playboy, Jezebel, Salon, On Our Backs, Talking Points Memo, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Review of Books, Esquire, the Criterion Collection, as well as her contribution to The Celluloid Closet, Bound, The Virgin Machine, Transparent, and the Criterion reissue of Belle de Jour.

One thought on “Prince Harry, King of Audio

  • January 27, 2023 at 3:04 am
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    Well written, Susie. A good read.

    Reply

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