Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Reading With My Ears

When I was a kid, I was one of those who lived in a world of books. I read all the time, and I lost myself in the pages. My sister remembers all the times she would have to come over to me and put her hand on the page I was reading so as to get my attention: Just calling for me wasn't enough to break through to the other side.

As a relatively young adult, living and working in and around Manhattan, I always carried a book with me on the subway, and even as I navigated the streets on foot. I preferred owning them to borrowing them; something about being surrounded by books in my apartment appealed to me on a very basic level.

When I got to LA 12 years ago, things started to change. First to go was the ability to read while I commuted, since holding a book in front of your nose on the freeways can be somewhat unsafe. When I started dating Baroy, I found myself spending more time curled up on the couch, talking, watching television, doing my newly discovered old-lady crafts. And once I had the kids, each of whom took a large chunk of my brain in addition to my free time when they exited my uterus, my reading time almost entirely disappeared.

Among the things I resolved this year was to bring books back into my life. Not a handful of books, but whole baskets full. I've missed them so much. Making myself happy, I decided, would mean allowing myself to expand my world through reading.

Except, who was I kidding? Yes, I've read a lot more this year. But there are limits on my time. I still have to commute to work. I still have to--want to--play with my kids, spend time with my husband. I have to clean and cook. I have a garden I'm inordinately proud of and want to keep going. There's laundry to do, and soccer practices to sit through. And I've become addicted to my multi-tasking walks around the neighborhood.

The solution: audiobooks. Audiobooks and an iPod. Audiobooks, an iPod, and a heavy reliance on interlibrary loans so that I can read/hear as many books as I want at no cost to myself.

Hearing books has taking some getting used to. I never imagined I'd like it, and in the beginning, I didn't much. Sometimes having the author's voice in your head gets in the way of hearing what he or she is saying. Sometimes having someone who is NOT the author read to you can feel false. Misspoken words are even more jarring than typos on a page, though I actually believe both should be punishable by jail time. I often find myself struggling with the meaning of a sentence, and resaying it in my head until I find a cadence or an emphasis that wasn't the one chosen by the reader, but which works better for me.

But the truth is that I now find myself enjoying my audiobooks a lot. The voices that can get in the way can also add things; interpretations you might not have 'heard' on your own. Sometimes, having the book read to me helps me to get through an emotionally difficult section that I might otherwise have simply put aside, or helps me get the most out of such a section by forcing me to listen to it sequentially, rather than skipping ahead with my eyes to see how it turns out. And I have not yet "put down" an audiobook halfway through, though I have many books on my shelves with which I've done the same. Somehow, with the audiobooks, it's easier to plow on through, as it were. And in almost every case, I've found that plowing to be worthwhile.

And so now I'm off, to head on home. I'll go pick up N, and I'll put one of his CDs on the stereo in the car. Then I'll put one of my earbuds into my ear, fire up my iPod, and sail on up the freeway, listening to the voices of the essayists in Cathy Hanauer's The Bitch In The House and feeling a lot less resentful by the time to I get to mine.

free hit counter