professornana (professornana) wrote,

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Reading with my Ears AND with my eyes

During the Blab Karin Perry and I hosted Sunday, there was a brief discussion of reading with our ears (AKA listening to audio books). You can access the video of the Blab here: At about the 10 minute mark, we talk about audio with Krista McIlhagga. We talk about how we sometimes "reread" a book when we listen to the audio after we have read it with our eyes and how that experience is somewhat different from listening to an audio of a book we have not read already. This morning, on the drive to the office, I read (with my ears) the three PRINCESS IN BLACK books by Shannon and Dean Hale, read by Julia Whelan (one of my favorite narrators). I had read one of the PRINCESS IN BLACK books with my eyes a while ago, but listening to all 3 back to back made me realize some things I would not have noticed reading one in isolation or even listening to one in isolation from the rest. I could see how the authors are developing the various characters, how they use some motifs and archetypes, how the story can stand alone and exist in a series as well.

A few weeks ago, I listened to Pam Munoz Ryan's ECHO. I had read this book a long time ago and loved its lyricism, its rhythm, its beauty. Listening to the audio reminded me of some of those awe-filled moments as the stories entwined into one, as the threads all came together in a wondrous tapestry, as the incredible artistry of an author's craft resonated within me as a reader.

I have been pondering how we respond to audiobooks if we are familiar with the story already. Is it any different from a response to an audio of a book we have not read yet? Is it possible to even measure this? But I do think it is sort of like watching a movie again and again or watching a rerun and experiencing the same sense of personal/emotional response. I often put on a recording of an old musical as I am settling in for the night. There is something comforting about hearing songs as I drift off. My BH jokes about the number of times he awakens to hear THE MUSIC MAN or HIGH SOCIETY or SINGING IN THE RAIN, but I noticed that he recently recoded SOME LIKE IT HOT, a movie I know we have viewed together more than once. So, maybe there is some comfort in those re-viewings, those reading with our ears as we drift off to sleep? Maybe sometimes listening to an audio of a book we know (thinking now of THE FAULT IN OUR STARS) can still elicit that response time after time.

I think back to THE TENTH GOOD THING ABOUT BARNEY by Judith Viorst. I recall my initial reading and the tears that flowed. But I know that even today, when I talk about the book, I get choked up. Ditto the chapter in THE VELVETEEN RABBIT where it talks about what it means to be real. I still laugh at THE STINKY CHEESE MAN AND OTHER FAIRLY STUPID TALES and IT'S A BOOK. Those responses do not seem to be weakened by repeated readings, either.

We know from the work of Bettelheim in THE USES OF ENCHANTMENT that there are reasons why we desire the same stories over and over. I think it might be even more primal that that. There is comfort in story; there is even more comfort in the stories we know and love already. This is not to say we do not have room for the new stories--we do. But there are some stories that bear holding on to.
Tags: audio, rereading
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