Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tell Me a Story

Whenever I tell people what I'm about to tell you, it feels like I've opened the closet door, and the skeleton has clattered to my feet. I hope you'll think only a little less of me when I confess: I listen to audiobooks.

In my English-major days, I never dreamt of it. That would be like skipping the book and watching the movie. Or like reading the Cliffs Notes for Moby Dick.

Only wait - I did read the Cliffs Notes for Moby Dick. I did it because I was cornered: I had five literature classes, and was assigned to read a novel a week for each one. If you know anything about my reading style, you know I might better have majored in Physics, because I was more likely to discover Cold Fusion than to read five novels in a week. Ever.

It was a similar desperation that drove me to audiobooks.

I was a young mom, with a home-based night job that kept me entering data long into the next morning, and then left me cross-eyed the following day. With a toddler. And no time to read.

A story-deprived life is no life at all.  And besides, something had to keep me awake so I could enter the data. For a while, it was a whacked out radio announcer named Art Bell, who interviewed UFO abductees and werewolves. But even Art Bell went to bed before I did.

Enter Blackstone Audio. In those days, you could go to their website and stream their books - for free, sometimes - over the internet, and they had authors like John Gresham and Maeve Binchy, and those two can keep you awake for hours. Free books, and they helped me stay up and make money. People have gotten hooked on cigarettes for less reason.

I eventually quit the job, but by then, my relationship with audiobooks was established. I found I could exercise and take in a Ray Bradbury story. I could clean house and hear what Malcolm Gladwell had to say.

I could light a candle, lower the lights, lay back in a warm bubblebath, and close my eyes while someone with a wonderful voice read me an absolutely delicious story.

Can you tell? I love that best of all.

Now that my life is busier than it ever has been, I need my audiobooks more than ever. Otherwise I'd starve on only the few minutes in bed I'm awake before I drift off to an exhausted sleep. In effect, I'd practically give up reading altogether. And a story-deprived life is no life at all.

Now Amazon has a nice little thing they call Whispersync, which allows me to read for those few minutes before I fall asleep, picking up right where the audiobook last left off, and then starting the audiobook in the morning right where I stopped reading.

But it's more than mere necessity, this vice of mine.

I'll tell you a secret: Some readers perform the character's voices in ways that make stories even more delicious. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss is like that. So is The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Or The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow by Rita Leganski.

How about you? Do you listen to audiobooks? Got any favorites, any with wonderful voices?

Please do tell. I'd love to find another story for my candlelit bubblebath times.


Tracy Groot said...

David Strathairn performing Louis L'Amour books on audio--nothing like it. :)

Tracy Groot said...

P.S. Thanks for this wonderful reminder! I've forgotten what an oasis audio books can be when a deadline keeps me from pleasure reading.

V. Gingerich said...

Thanks for what I know is going to be my biggest laugh of the day. Love your voice in this post!

As for me and audiobooks...I'm a Twain fan, and Twain himslf couldn't read The Innocents Abroad or Tom Sawyer better than John Greenman, a volunteer (yes, volunteer) on The voice of Greenman has become the voice of Twain, for me.

Anonymous said...

We are on the road frequently, and we love audiobooks. Will Patton is one of our favorite audiobook readers. He's especially wonderful with James Lee Burke's books. Another author we enjoy on the road is Alan Furst, especially when his books are read by George Guidall.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

Andrew Sachs. I have only heard him read The Horse and His Boy but I would listen if I could find him reading anything else.
When I car pooled two Jewish girls to school they would fight in my back seat. Then one day the youngest pulled out a CD that was in the pocket beside her and said, "Can we listen to..." and she pronounced the letters like a new reader, 'Seeee Essss Leeewisss?" Sure, said I! And I hope I introduced her to a long relationship with her Messiah at the same time. They never fought after that.

Patti Hill said...

I don't drive for more than 20 minutes without an audio book playing. The Help is one of the most beautifully read books ever. And Tracy, I love Louis L'Amour books. We live in his country, so the setting is right out the window.

Here is my problem with audio books: I listen as I clean or do some detestable job. Soon I am more interested in the story than the detestable job, so I can't stop until I come to a point in the story that is what we call a stopping point, but for some reason the stopping points don't come. Audio books make everything more pleasant.

Sharon K. Souza said...

Rick and I have begun listening to audio books on long trips, and we both really enjoy them. My favorite so far is To Kill a Mockingbird, ready by Sissy Spacek. It's wonderful. And Jan Karon's Mitford Series, ready by Jan Karon is as well.

Kathleen Popa said...

Tracy, my grandfather read, I believe, ALL of Louis L'Amour books! It would be fun to hear them read by someone who did it right.

V, I'm honored to have made you laugh. Thanks for saying so. I will absolutely have to hear John Greenman reading Librivox!

Susan, George Guidall is a favorite of mine, too. He's one of the readers for The History of Love, and he does and amazing job!

Henrietta, what a great story! I'll have to listen to Andrew Sachs.

Patti, my commute is about 15 minutes. It's amazing how many books you can take in, in a half hour of driving a day. Especially if you take a bath at night. ;) Or clean your house.

Sharon, Oooh, Sissy Spacek reads To Kill a Mockingbird? I must hear that!

I thought of another favorite book, and another favorite reader: Ever watch (and fall in love with) the old TV show, Pushing Daisies? If so - and if not, too - then you MUST hear The Night Circus read by Jim Dale. A wonderful, unmistakable voice!