Being - for the last fortnight - unable to read or write properly or do anything requiring energy I resorted to listening to audio-books. I don’t often resort to this as I like words on the page, be it paper or Kindle screen.
However the concentration for pure reading deserted me alongside my appetite and my energy. So, by means of the audio-books in the last week I have ‘read’ three books: The Forgotten by David Baldacci; Zoo Time by Howard Jacobson; Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin. Waiting for me to enjoy are ring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel; Where There’s a Will by John Mortimer and Victorian London by Lisa Picard. I have also managed to read on the paper page The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourself by Stephen Grosz.
(Should you be interested - my next post here will be my personal notes on these individual books…)
But I have to say that this experience has made me reflect on the audio-process. First, how wonderful that these texts were unabridged. When I think of the care that we writers put into every word, every paragraph of a novel it seems some kind of heresy to abridge it to make it fit into a required audio timescale. So the audio-time is anywhere upwards of ten or eleven hours.
Also, being read by accomplished readers, the rhythms and nuances of the prose enhance the meaning - perhaps more than the echoes in the head that emerge from reading on the page.
It certainly improved my line by line attention as I have to confess, as a lifetime reader, to a well entrenched and somewhat destructive habit of speed-reading and skipping. With audio books you can’t skip; you have to let the story unfold at the author’s designated pace.
It could be the euphoria of the illness but I would swear that I have enjoyed these books much more intensely than usual. As I come back to life and writing and work I’m certain I’ll use this form of reading into my book habit more regularly in the future.
And then I suddenly remember I’m not alone. In his exceptionally good book On Writing author Stephen King urges all writers to read widely, wisely and well for their own self education. He lists the books he read in a single year. His list is enormous. Then he tells us that he had read a great proportion of this list by audio-book.
I suppose I could declare an interest here. All my books are now on Kindle - just got the stats – they’re trickling out very well there (except for Family Ties. Do give it a try. One of my best, I think) . But as well as thise= they are also out there in audio-book form. An Englishwoman in France looks very fine in its audio-book packaging. They’re available through libraries to order borrow and download. Or through companies like Audible.
And now I’ve had my own valuable and enlightening audio experience I treasure the thought of my own readers enjoying my novels in this steady appreciative pace, read by the brilliant actresses who give them their voice
NEXT: Tomorrow my appreciative notes on the audio books I have read this week. By David Baldacci, Howard Jacobson, Ian Rankin, Hilary Mantel, John Mortimer Lisa Picard, Stephen Grosz.
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