The difficult dialect of Joel Chandler Harris’ Uncle Remus stories wasn’t the only thing that made recording them hard for Augusta writer and editor Tom Turner.
It was also the humor.
“The part that I hadn’t seen coming was that we would all crack up because it was just so funny. Between the dialect and the laughs, it was a challenge,” Turner said.
Turner, of Augusta, recorded the stories for the Beehive Foundation as a companion piece to their volume of Uncle Remus stories.
The foundation, whose mission is to preserve Southern literature, is offering the book and the CD as a special holiday package.
Harris wrote the Uncle Remus stories as a series of columns while he was an editor for the Atlanta Constitution in the late 1800s. In them, a fictional black man named Uncle Remus told plantation folk tales that were reprinted throughout the country. Harris published several collections of the popular stories.
“I’ve always loved Joel Chandler Harris since I was a child,” Turner said.
Turner broke his leg in the fourth grade and, while having to keep up with his school assignments, a neighbor named Anna Fulcher would visit and read to him.
“I would love for her to do Uncle Remus,” Turner said. “That lady was so good reading Uncle Remus that you couldn’t resist it.”
Turner has done other voice work, such as a recording of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and voice characters for commercials.
He has also recorded serious literary works that he said are obscure to most people but are valuable to students who can listen to him read reference materials online from personal devices rather than sit in a library with the printed works.
Turner said recording a project like the Uncle Remus volume spurred his interest in the author. Even though he already knew a lot about Harris, Turner became interested in learning more.
“I was surprised to find out that (Mark Twain) was a huge fan of Harris,” he said. “He said of Harris – referring to dialect – he said that Joel Chandler Harris is the only master the country has produced. That’s coming from somebody who thought he was pretty good at it.”
Turner described Harris as a shy proponent of the New South following reconstruction, and a sharp businessman who had a wonderful sense of humor.
He also said that Harris considered himself a newspaperman and never thought of Uncle Remus as literature, although it is what he is best remembered for.
“He must have been a hell of a wonderful guy,” Turner said.