I recently had to make a drive up to Columbus, Indiana by myself. This is not really a long trip–just an hour or so. But it can be frustrating all the same, and I was at the library when the thought occurred to me–you could get an audio book! Many blogging folks listen to books as well as reading them, and I used to buy audio books for the long drive from Jackson, Mississippi, home to Kentucky. Also, I’ve often thought how nice it would be able to knit and read at the same time. Totally possible with an audio book! So after scouring the library shelves, I picked Christopher Moore’s The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, having enjoyed both Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff and Bloodsucking Fiends.
Listening to this book on the drive to Columbus certainly made the trip easier, but wasn’t enough time to finish the entire book. So I was surprised by how pleasant it was to keep the cd in my car and listen to it on the shorter trips back and forth to work. I’m not going to make any claim to a long commute. It takes about 15 minutes total for me to get from my front door to my office door. And there’s no traffic along the way. But there was something so nice about being able to think, “Oh, I get to ride in the car now and hear more from my book.”
Listening to the book took what is a kind of empty space in my day and filled it with a small pleasure. Or maybe it took a space that was often filled with the kind of anxiety that comes from constantly projecting yourself into what’s next and kept me in the present moment. Instead of thinking about my classes, and what I’d make for dinner, and listing all the e-mails I needed to send, I just listened to my book. I usually listen to music in my car, which is also pleasurable, but doesn’t focus your attention quite the way listening to a book does. Listening to an audio book made it easier for me to stay in the present moment while driving around in the car, and I was surprised at how much that improved the quality of my life. So, hurray for audio books.
Having said that, I would also say that there are some books I probably won’t be listening to as audio books. The Lust Lizard was a pretty plot driven kind of novel. It was fun and interesting in a zany, mad-capped way. It wasn’t serious literature. It wasn’t full of wordy prose. It was well-written, but very well suited to hearing rather than reading. I don’t know how it would have been to listen to something that took more concentration, as sometimes in the car, my mind would still wander a bit.
It was also interesting to have to get out of the car and leave the book. Only at the very end with a few chapters left did I bring the cd inside to listen to. The rest was all in the car, and I found myself at times wishing that I could listen to more, wanting to know what happened next. I kind of wished I’d had a real book version of the novel as well. An audio book for in the car and a written book for in the house. That could be interesting.
I wonder now how different my experience would have been reading the novel rather than listening to it. Hearing a character’s voice certainly has to change your perceptions. I imagine I would not have made Theophilous Crowe sound as dopey as the person reading the book did. Nor would Molly Meshawn have sounded so breathy. And of course, I don’t know if that’s how you spell that last name (Meshawn) because I never saw it written down. In this audio book, the reader did actual voices for all of the characters, rather than just reading the book, which I know doesn’t happen with all audio books. It certainly made the book interesting, but also left less to my imagination as a reader.
Certainly in our sped up, multitasking, not enough hours in the day kind of world, listening to audio books in the car makes sense. But what was great about this was not so much the pleasure I got from feeling that I was “accomplishing something” while I drove around. It was rather than I managed to cut out what I hadn’t really even realized before was some serious “Rewind and Fast Forward” time–time when I was doing a lot of either re-living moments or fast forwarding into the future. You know what Yoda has to say about that.
This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph.
Yoda…and the Buddha, of course. I think both would endorse the audio book.
What’s your experience of listening to books? Are there certain kinds of books you prefer to listen to? Certain styles of reading you prefer?