Review: My Life as a 10-Year-Old Boy

My Life as a 10-Year-Old Boy My Life as a 10-Year-Old Boy by Nancy Cartwright
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Note: This review was originally written in the early 2000s and published for a no longer running website: AudiobookCafe. This review is focused on both the book and audiobook. It can’t be said that Nancy Cartwright, the fantastic voice behind the infamous Bart Simpson, doesn’t love her job. To help emphasize her devotion to her career, she has written, “My Life As a 10-Year-Old-Boy.” In this autobiography of both her and Bart’s life, Cartwright gives you the intimate details of what goes on behind the animation curtain. This audiobook fits perfectly into the canon of Simpsons' literature that includes episode guides (authorized and otherwise), comic books, social impact books, religious influence books (no joke—“The Gospels According to the Simpsons.”), and other books on the topic of America’s favorite animated family.

Cartwright, an established voice over talent before “The Simpsons”, spends the first few chapters of this audiobook on the topic of her pre-Bart years. Her tale begins in elementary school in a school-wide story-telling competition and follows through her high school years winning state competitions and ultimately college scholarships for her vocal abilities. Once in college, she apprentices under Dawes Butler, and her career takes off. By the time she steps foot on the set of “The Tracy Ulman Show,” she has already done work for various cartoons such as Galaxy High School, Pound Puppies, The Snorks, My Little Pony & Friends, and Richie Rich. For those non-Simpsons devotees, “The Simpsons” was first created as a series of animated shorts to serve as segues to and from commercials for “The Tracy Ulman Show.” These shorts were so popular that the Fox Network approved the plan for a series.

As the title implies, the meat of this autobiography revolves around Cartwright and Bart’s experience during the run of 11-season show (Currently, the show proceeds into its 15th season). She takes the listener step-by-step through the whole process of an episode from the brainstorm sessions by the writers to voice recordings to the post-production editing and revising.

The audiobook retells Cartwright’s experiences meeting famous actors and actresses who have lent their voice to “The Simpsons” such as Elizabeth Taylor, Mel Gibson, Michael Jackson, and Danny Devito. Her excitement borderlines on hero-worship as she goes over in detail about these encounters. While the enthusiasm is understood, her emphasis on celebrities at the expense of listeners having no clue about work politics or her personal life for that matter left a small pit in this story.

Cartwright published the book in 2001 but has only published the audiobook this year with no real explanation to the time lapse. And with such a time lapse, listeners might regret that she has not updated the material beyond a singular footnote. Not that much needs to be updated, but in the last three seasons, the show has received more awards, and more famous actors have lent their voices to the show.

An arguable flaw of this audiobook pertains to this year’s talent strike by the six major voices of “The Simpsons”—Hank Azaria, Nancy Cartwright, Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Harry Shearer, and Yeardley Smith. The golden voices of the show demanded a raise that resulted in $360,000 per person per episode. Nancy Cartwright brags about the fact that nowadays the time needed to tape each episode takes an average of six hours. That’s $60,000 an hour of work for each of the 22 episodes in a season. This again would not be anything too exceptional, but while detailing how the show is made, she explains that the story is sent out to Korea for the animation cells to be painted by Koreans. This helps lower the cost of the show because they only get paid a few dollars an hour; a point that doesn’t seem to bother the voice talent who is being paid $1,000 a minute for her work.

But she certainly gives credit where credit is due. Throughout the audiobook, she lists off the names of various people involved with the show as their position comes up in her discussion. She pays respect to Mike Groening and James L. Brooks, the creators of the show, and of course, her co-workers whom she certainly adores.

Cartwright narrates this audiobook with a natural talent that is fantastic. Her overall exuberance for the show, the celebrities, and her life in addition to the fact that she plays a 10 year-old-boy, gives her voice the feel of a child at an amusement park. She has so much to say and is completely awestruck by her environment. You hear it in her voice. Her narration not only makes it better than the book form, but also no other narrator could have performed this audiobook better. Readers may have appreciated the upbeat style of the book and quirky asides and other narrators might have given those asides some justice—but only Cartwright can deliver an authentic Bart Simpson belting out, “Aye, carumba!” Nor do readers hear all the other times that Cartwright breaks into character (whether Bart or other animated characters). She superbly keeps listeners involved with these variations. Cartwright reads her materially so well, it’s next to impossible to imagine how this audiobook would work grammatically in a book. It seems so much more natural in audio format.

In addition to her excitement, Cartwright gives the listeners some sentimental and private moments with her. Cartwright’s feelings and sadness overwhelm the listener when she talks about the day Phil Hartman, a regular voice on “The Simpsons,” died. The sentiment in her voice can be quite touching at times throughout the audiobook.

“My Life As a 10-Year-Old Boy” is a must for any die-hard Simpsons’ fan Even occasional watchers of the show will receive some interesting insights from America’s most famous fourth-grade bad boy. Filled with various anecdotes and details, this audiobook provides great insight to a show that has outlasted almost every other sitcom and cartoon show out there.

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