As some of you know, I spend quite a bit of time in my car. For one thing, I have a fairly long drive to work—it takes about forty minutes. Not bad in major metro areas, but for here it seems long., though that is mitigated by the beauty of the road I take. I also seem to have a significant list of professional meetings each year that require my attendance. So my car and I know each other very well.
One of the things that makes all this traveling easier is heated seats. Some day I’ll write an ode to this modern invention. Another is audiobooks. I have listened to audios since the “books on tape” days.People think librarians read every book in the library. Though that’s impossible, I have certainly doubled what I can read with this method. I usually distinguish for my friends, “I read that one with my ears, not my eyes.” I think it makes a difference.
For one thing, I have found that I can’t read anything and everything this way. I was on a committee for the Virginia Library Association some years ago that required me to drive to Charlottesville frequently. I decided to read Anna Karenina with my ears on these long trips. I struggled mightily, but the reader’s voice tended to put me to sleep, and that was not a good thing.
Reader’s voices are extremely important in audiobooks, and so are the readers’ accents. I am driven to distraction by books by Southern authors, read by someone “not from around here” who attempts to imitate a Southern accent. It’s usually a disaster. What’s up with that? Do the producers of audios think native Southerners incapable of reading aloud?
On the other hand, readers can have just the right touch with a book—for example, the great John McDonough does a masterful job reading the Mitford books of Jan Karon. He even sings the hymns that are quoted therein. When the company switched to another reader for the Father Tim novels, I actually complained to the rep that visits me here at the library. What were they thinking? I heard Jan Karon herself laud John McDonough. Was he just busy? Too expensive? She didn’t know. John McDonough is Father Tim. I am reading the new series with my eyes. It’s too distracting otherwise to listen to this new imposter. [Sorry, Scott Sowers, I am sure you are a lovely man].
Mysteries are usually good. The tug of the narrative arc usually keeps me engaged, and therefore awake. In fact, I have been so engrossed in the occasional mystery that I realize I have no idea where on Route 57 I am en route to the library. That’s probably not a good thing either, but here’s hoping the powers that be do not get wind of the “driving distracted” phenomenon that can be created by the audiobook. Beware, however, of the mystery with an important Southern character, read by a Yankee. See complaint above.
In another category entirely are the books read by their authors. These are just puzzling sometimes. How can someone who authored a work have no idea how to read it? Are they surprised that the text seems somewhat familiar?
Happily, the book I am reading now, though read by its author, suffers nothing in the translation. It’s I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron. You may know her by her work in films; she’s the screenwriter of When Harry Met Sally, Silkwood, Julie and Julia, and Sleepless in Seattle. Ms. Ephron’s droll delivery belies the humor in this book; I started it on the way to work and within ten minutes was laughing out loud at her essay on memory loss. Don’t ask me to tell you more about it, though; I can’t remember.