This weekend, during a long drive (you'll just have to wait to find out where I went!), I listened to what I think may have been my first audiobook.
I belong to a book discussion group that reads one book a month together, and I've always read the book, scanned the physical pages, even brought it with me to meetings for reference. I think I may have read a book on the Kindle just once; I just prefer the feel and smell of paper, being able to flip back and forth, scanning the pages for a word or a passage. Other people in the group, people who are frequent flyers and commuters, listen to audiobooks regularly. I just didn't think it was for me.
But the person in charge of our choice for this month picked Faulker's As I Lay Dying, and though I bought the paper copy too (somehow, I seemed not to have a copy any more, though I'm sure I read it in high school), thinking about my drive, on a whim, I downloaded the book from Audible.
I don't know if it would work as well with all books, but something about this one--between the cast of characters and frequent switch of narrators, and the poetic language that the characters use--it was absolutely the right choice. I don't remember enjoying--or understanding--Faulkner nearly as much on the printer page as I have as it has been read to me. Suddenly the poetry of the language became more evident than before, the pauses and ellipses more pregnant and meaningful.
On the way home from work I caught a story on NPR about audiobooks: about authors who now write for the ear, rather than the eye. We like the intimacy of a private performance, the publishers say. But it's something deeper, too. After all, stories began in oral tradition. Why wouldn't we be pulled back to our origins by the very technology that divides us from the past?
I used to read to my son every night, until he decided that he could read faster on his own than I could read to him. Now, I read to my daughter, and sometimes, my son still wanders in, though the books are far beneath him, to listen to the story, to laugh at the voices, to cuddle with us. He leaves reluctantly to brush his teeth, hangs around the doorway, still listening. When I turn the light out, my daughter asks me to tell her another, to fabricate something out of the darkness. Sometimes, I ask her to tell me one, too. There's just something about the sound of a good story.
Do you listen to audiobooks? Do you still read aloud?
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