Monday, May 24, 2010

Read to me

Is listening to a book being read to you just as good as reading the book yourself?  Is it better?  Does it count?  Or is it as big a cop-out as watching the movie?

I think it depends.  Some books really benefit from having a great actor narrating (Maggie Gyllenhaal reading Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar - she brought the characters alive to me in a way that didn't really happen when my 16 year old self read them on the page).  And some books are better left to the reader's imagination (Nora Ephron reading her own I Feel Bad About My Neck made me think, "She sounds like a sarcastic, slightly more charismatic version of Hilary Clinton giving a public speech. Talk. Faster. We're. Not. All. Morons.")

Acting/reading ability aside, I think there are certainly benefits to reading a book old-school style with eyes skimming page be it on paper or on-screen.  Your mind fills in the audio and visual components of the story.  And in that sense, you participate in the creative process along with the writer.  The Harry Potter series comes to mind.  Reading the books on paper first allowed me to make the characters look and speak in a certain way that was all my own.  Yet when I listen to Jim Dale's superb reading, I realize that all my accents are wrong and perhaps I should leave the English accents to the professionals.  Which begs the question, "As a reader, am I limited by the creative extent of my own imagination?  Am I better off waiting for the audiobook, the movie, the 3D movie in IMAX?"

Listening to a great actor reading a great book, I think, can be a thrilling experience.  It's like being a kid listening to an adult who really gets into the story, taking on different voices, and even acting out certain scenes.  It's delightful.  It gets the imaginative juices flowing.  A good story is a good story, no matter the media. 

Lately, I seem to be incapable of reading a book in the conventional sense.  In fact, I've been in a reading slump for the last six months.  But my need for stories hasn't abated - I just fill it with different forms.  TV series, movies, and audiobooks.  I blame the knitting.  It's hard to turn a page while purling a stitch.  I would need another hand.  So I've been listening to alot of audiobooks.

Now that I'm in the throes of a lengthy knitting slump, I'm starting to feel drawn once again to words on paper.  Itchy fingers, I guess.


  1. well, the knitting and reading slumping seems to have resulted in an increase in blogging. Here in Oregon, we'll take it. if you could just send us a meatmuffin and an m&m....

  2. I do aim to please. I don't think you'd enjoy meatmuffins (yes, I've tried them). Not enough seasoning for my taste although Bennan doesn't seem to mind.