Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Audio Tapes (or Do You Hear What I Hear?)

Both Roy and I love to read. Most newcomers to our home comment on our full bookshelves. (If they only knew how many books we have stored in boxes because of lack of room on the shelves.) Give us a choice of an evening of reading or watching a movie and . . . hmmm, when the heck did we last watch a movie? Unfortunately, you won't find us doing much reading this time of year. Up here in the North Country, summer days are long but the season itself is short so being outside in the pleasant weather is something we take advantage of. And when daylight lingers until close to 9 p.m., most days it's too hard to come inside until just before bedtime.

So how do we get our literature fix when there's no crackling fire to sit in front of and there are chores to do? Books on tape. Addicted to them, we are. Got a boring job to do? Listening to an audio tape makes the time (and chore) fly by. I listen while planting or weeding in the garden, painting, doing dishes, making a big salad for supper, doing anything that doesn't require thinking. Roy has an audio tape going while doing carpentry jobs like building new cold frames, stacking wood, doing simple repairs, puttering in the garage. We even have a special hook for the audio player in the bathroom so we can listen while taking a shower. It's a 2-1/2 hour drive to the nearest big city but with a good book on tape, we're there, or back, before we know it.

A year or so ago, I decided to re-read "Gone with the Wind." I'd read it in high school but that was eons ago so I was curious as to what my impression of it would be now. Those of you who are familiar with this Pulitzer Prize winning novel know it has a bit of a slow start . . . and I just couldn't get into it. A week ago I got "Gone with the Wind" on tape from the library and now I'm on Tape 12 and enjoying it thoroughly. I know I've listened to many different books on tape that I wouldn't have had the patience to wade through if I were actually sitting reading the book.

I recently finished listening to an audio book by Gary Paulsen. I've always enjoyed his books but was surprised by this one because it's quite different from his usual style of writing. "Sarny, A Life Remembered" is the story of a plantation slave and her life during and after the Civil War. It was at times a difficult narrative to get through because of the depiction of slavery during that era and atrocities committed during the Civil War. While listening, a couple of times I had to stop what I was doing (weeding) because my eyes filled with tears and I couldn't see. It's read by Lynne Thigpen whose narration was wonderfully poignant. She was an actress that I've admired, so talented, a person who died much too young a couple of years back.

To me, it's down-right amazing how one person can convincingly and effectively portray a myriad of characters through voice inflection, pitch, and cadence. On the other hand, I've stopped listening to a few books on tape because the narration was so bad. The reader of an audio tape can make or break the listening experience, no doubt about that.

Truth to tell, these hectic summer days I've found myself glancing longingly at the couch and looking forward to cold, blustery winter evenings snuggled under a quilt while consuming a good page-turner of a book. But for a couple more months, I'll keep ordering my audio tapes from the library. I don't even have to find my reading glasses in order to listen.

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