The author says the wide range of voices evokes “the feeling I tried to evoke in the book: a sort of American chorale”
Audiobooks have been called the fastest-growing format in publishing, and George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo seems to be the largest-growing novel among audiobooks: The acclaimed short story writer’s first full-length novel boasts a star-studded cast of 166 narrators.
Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, Lena Dunham, Ben Stiller, Susan Sarandon, Megan Mullally and Don Cheadle are among the celebrities who have all lent their voices to narrate the story, about Abraham Lincoln mourning his son Willie in a graveyard full of ghosts. Penguin Random House Audio is applying for a Guinness World Record for most individuals’ voices on a single audiobook.
“This was a really gratifying artistic venture — to have so many talented people give their time to my work like this,” Saunders emailed TIME. “I had approached Kelly Gildea, the producer, with high hopes but also (I can see in retrospect) with no idea of how much I was asking—the sheer amount of work and organization. But she agreed immediately and went to work on it: 166 different voices, one for every character in the book, no doubling, and the final cast included A-list Hollywood talent, amazing audiobook professionals, and (especially meaningful to me) a bunch of family members, close friends, and volunteers from Random House and ICM. I love the way that the variety of contemporary American voices mimics and underscores the feeling I tried to evoke in the book: a sort of American chorale.”
Highlights from the star-studded cast are below. The novel and audiobook will be available Feb. 14.