Do any of you listen to audio books? One day at the library I wandered over to that section in search of something Spanish to listen to because I realized my skills in that department are majorly deteriorating (Which I hate, why can’t languages be like riding a bike?) and I got the idea to listen to an audio book while I’m bookbinding. And that seemed like a really great idea because I’m all about multitasking and all sorts of full of media guilt if I watch t.v. for hours on end even if it’s while doing something else productive. I also have more books on my to-read list already than is probably possible for my whole lifetime, and audiobooks seem like an awesome way to get through more books. (Not that reading books for leisure is some drudgery to be gotten through, but you know) My uncle is an artist and one of the smartest people I know, which I attribute in large part to his habit of listening to books on tape (and npr) all day long while he paints. Imagine how many books you could “read” that way if every moment of your workday was also reading time.
Anyway, with all of that said, I don’t like it. I tried really hard to like it, I promise. I’m listening to Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, also read by Elizabeth Gilbert, and I’m already wishing that I was reading it instead of listening. I can’t quite pinpoint why, but it kind of feels the same as when I attempt to construct an argument for hard copy printed books vs. ebooks. The case for ebooks is lengthy, practical, and concrete. They are more convenient, less cumbersome, better for the environment, and less expensive. The case for print books always sounds ridiculous and romantic even as I say it–“they just–uh–feel better. I like the paper. I like holding it. It’s just better.” By all means, you ebook fans, carry on with your loving Kindle relationship. I support your, I respect you, I’m even happy for you, but that is just how I feel.
The audio book just feels wrong. Maybe in part because reading shouldn’t be a multitasking activity? (unless you’re eating of course) Maybe in part because the particular one I’ve chosen is read by the author and I feel like the whole writer/reader relationship has been compromised. In traditional reading, the writer writes and has their own time and relationship with the words. They fuss over metaphors, they deliberate over word choice and sentence structure, they rewrite, they edit, and then they pass their work onto you, the reader. Like a baton, it is given up, out of their hands, at which point the reader spends their own time with the words, in their own space, forming their own relationship, interpreting their own version and meaning. Listening to the author read me her own story feels like I’m intruding on her writerly space, and that she is intruding on my readerly space. Since parts of the story are pretty deeply personal and confessional, I feel like I’m spying, while without her own voice in the room, it wouldn’t feel that way.
Have you ever had the experience of a total stranger telling you something very personal? Something secret that they wouldn’t or haven’t told anyone close to them, but since you are an outsider to their circle, it doesn’t matter? Like how the first person (besides my husband) I told about my pregnancy was the girl who cuts my hair. It was still a secret from my family and friends, but since she didn’t know anyone I know, who cares if she knows? That’s how I feel when I read personal memoirs, no matter how personal, it’s ok because I’m a stranger. When I don’t actually know the author, it feels like they’ve kind of put their work out there without a face. You can confess whatever you want when it’s anonymous or lacking in physical human contact (maybe the reason why so many people are comfortable posting their whole lives online?). But when I can hear her own voice telling me about her painful messy divorce and her deep depression, etc., I’m almost embarrassed for her to be sharing such things.
Another thing (if I haven’t already bored you away) is that I can hear in her voice when she knows something is funny. It’s like how for whatever reason, a comedian laughing at their own jokes is just kind of pathetic, I can hear when she’s trying to be funny or clever or knows that this sentence is really epically beautiful–which kind of takes away the funny, clever, or beautiful and leaves me cringing.
The thought of reading my own work out loud is just plain embarrassing, even work I’m proud of (hands down the worst part of college creative writing class). Reading my blog posts aloud? No, thank you. I would rather spend my own time with the words and then pass them along to you.
So, obviously my blog is having an identity crisis. But isn’t it kind of exciting how every single time you view it, it’s totally different?? Turns out I really truly cannot handle large font. This may be stupid, but it just made me feel like everything was trivial and childish. 1st graders handwriting–huge. Serious publications–12 pts or smaller. Would the New York Times or the Atlantic use 18 pt. font? No. Absolutely not. And since I take this oh so seriously, I found an interface witha reasonable font size. Can’t say I won’t change it again, but it should last at least a week.