Monday, September 12, 2011

Aurally fixated

For a long time I avoided listening to audiobooks because something about it felt like cheating.  I had this irrational sense that when the story was finished, I wouldn’t be able to truthfully declare that I had “read” the book (which may be a testament to my honesty, but is more likely an indication of neurosis).   It’s just you never know, one day you might be at the grocery store, maybe sampling some olives, trying to look like you might make a purchase, when up walks Stephen King, or Judy Blume, or whoever, and after exchanging tapenade recipes it would be nice to be able to say that I enjoyed reading their work.   “Listening” just doesn’t sound the same.

But you know, my hang-up is totally wrongheaded.   First, what are the chances of running into a famous author at Checkers?  15-20% tops.  And more importantly, the performance of a skilled audiobook narrator only adds to the quality and depth of the literary experience.  It’s such a pleasure to hear a trained performer emote and enunciate, rather than my own internal droning.  And the convenience of audiobooks can’t be beat – especially in the car.  Plus, I’ve devised a workaround for my previously mentioned concerns – I switch back and forth between the audio and the text, giving me carte blanche to use the “read” wordage until I’m blue in the face.

I used this attacking-a-book-on-two-fronts approach recently with The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.  The book is a fascinating juxtaposition of two men seizing opportunity and realizing immense goals, one channeling his talent into architecture, the other into murder.  Larson’s book was a huge hit when it came out in 2003, getting shortlisted for the National Book Award (and is currently being adapted into a film by Leonardo DiCaprio).   I was rushing to get through the book so I could start on Larson’s new title In the Garden of Beasts, which is about an American ambassador and his family witnessing the rise of Hitler in Germany.  The two books don’t have much to do with one another, but the cover art is so similar that I decided they should be read as a set. 

And one last thing about audiobooks, you may have noticed that the Overdrive downloadable audiobook service that the library subscribes to (through the State Library) has been a little skimpy lately.  I won’t go into all of the gory details, but there was a contract kerfuffle and the State Library has decided to take their business elsewhere.  I think they’re still ironing out the details, but it looks like there will be a new provider of downloadable audiobooks in November (and eBooks around the first of the year).  Here’s a link for more information:

Ransom - Reference 

No comments: