Monday, April 04, 2011

Talking Books

Last year Audible contacted me through my Twitter account and said "hey, thanks for following us, you're special, we're special, have a free audiobook" only not quite like that, I'm paraphrasing. So I signed up, chose my free audiobook (Revolutionary Road) and then didn't quit my membership so they kept giving me credits but started charging me, which I really hate, but by then they had me hooked and that right there is a cautionary tale in which I am a sucker, but also, a happy one. I know, I'm also confused. If you don't want to sign up for a monthly credit, but you are interested in listening to audiobooks, find out what your local library has to offer - I can download Bolinda audiobooks straight from the website of our regional library. Martin and I take it in turns to spend the audible credits, but we source audiobooks from other places too.

I was commuting into Melbourne Uni (either in the car or drive and train) when I got my first book, and so I mostly listened while I traveled. I was completely drawn into Revolutionary Road, gutted by the ending, and totally addicted to the narrator's voice. That's what it's like when you get a good narrator, an addiction, and you make any opportunity to feed that addiction.

I thought perhaps when I lost the commute I might lose the audiobooks, but then I got diagnosed with gestational diabetes. The stories I listened to roaming the hills in spring twilights were from the collection The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke: English fairy and folktales set in very dark, English woods, but in my imagination, in the gloaming hills of my bushland, with the distant razor toothed fire burnt hills, and the moon rising from them.

And I still listen, when I'm walking, in bed at night, when I'm cooking, during night feeds or when I'm just hanging out in the house with Avery. Avery finds them soothing too. Together we've listened to Margaret Atwood's Dancing Girls (which I bought for $4.95 as part of an audible special, which they seem to run once or twice a year), Elizabeth Strout's mesmerising Abide With Me and The Help by Kathryn Stockett. The Help was sensational, the narration so perfect and compelling that I can't imagine reading the book. It seems to me that to read it would be to miss out on some of the depth, the nuance, the pure pleasure of the writing - the cadence of the words, the Southern voices, the deep characterisation that flows from the mellifluous voices. Cannot. Recommend. Highly. Enough. If audible are still offering a free credit to new listeners then I really recommend The Help as a gateway drug. 18 hours and 6 minutes of pure pleasure.

Sometimes I listen for an hour, sometimes for five minutes. Sometimes I dip in and out, sometimes I make opportunities to listen. It is a different pleasure from reading, yet it has revitalised my reading - after reading Abide With Me I went back to Olive Kitteridge also by Elizabeth Strout which I'd put down a few stories in and raced through the rest.

Each time an audiobook finishes I feel bereft. I grieve the loss of those particular voices in my head. It's been two or three days since I finished The Help and I am not quite ready to commit to the next one. I felt the same way after Abide With Me. It has to sink in - it's really over. After Revolutionary Road I honestly felt I might not ever be able to listen to anything again. I was shocked, appalled, gutted.

But of course, tentatively at first, I always begin again: words fall through me and I live again.

Strangely, Undine, Breathe and Drift are all on audio too. However, I have never listened to them. I am almost ready to. I flicked through Breathe last night and so much of it I've forgotten, those words I agonised over, wrote and rewrote, now adrift from me.

1 comment:

  1. oh dear. i want. and i also want a kindle now, too. such a magical online instant bookstore. michael's been reading novels on his ipad (with the kindle application) but i think the screen might start to annoy me. he's had no problem with it though, and is most of the way through the lord of the rings!

    i haven't listened to audio books since i was a child. (well, we tried to listen to jeeves and wooster in the car last time we were in the states but it annoyed us.) also i've tried streaming bbc radio4 while i'm cooking and they often have audio books and audio plays, but they always choose such depressing ones. i wonder if i could get into it - i quite like quiet while i walk to let my thoughts drift and i don't really like things sticking in my ears. but still. very tempting to try...