Lately I’ve become a consumer of audio books. I’ve done this before, years ago, when I was working on getting a house ready for sale. Mind you, I’ve always read while cleaning or cooking, but it’s pretty hard to read while painting, hence the audio books.
The latest spree isn’t painting related (though it could be soon. I mean, all of this house needs painting, but I’m waiting for summer.) I’ve just taken up long walks, and audio books help.
It has also caused some strange shifts in my reading habits, as I’ve discovered that just like reading authors in Portuguese then in English isn’t the same. I don’t know if it’s extraordinary translators or simply ideas more suited to being expressed in one language than the other, but I loved some authors in Portuguese that I can’t read in English and vice-versa.
So, that’s the first:
1- not all my favorite authors translate well to audio books. Though so far I’ve found I’ve got a greater tolerance for books in audio than in reading. Some language issues that bother me in reading sound a lot more plausible in voice. I think that this is because hearing things spoken makes them somehow more real than reading them. Hearing is believing. (In this it might help to know I grew up with radio news, as opposed to TV news, so maybe I’m conditioned to consider spoken things “true” I guess.)
1a) I cannot listen to F. Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack series, one of my absolutely favorite series, and one of the very few I buy in hardcover. Mind you, I can’t listen to horror, either, but I don’t read horror. Repairman Jack is a thriller with horrific elements. I can read it fine. In fact, when it comes out I usually read it in the evening/night. So why can’t I listen to it? I dream about it. In detail. Graphically.
There is a second find:
2 - I’m more likely to get subtexts in a book listening to it read.
Well, either that or I simply don’t function well while reading and washing dishes, and making sure the book doesn’t fall in the water. But Terry Pratchett, for instance, is infinitely “richer” in audio books.
3- I’m more likely to catch the voice of the book while listening to it audio. I mean, I’m more likely to start speaking and writing like that book. This means I CANNOT listen to Georgette Heyer while writing space opera. Otherwise, my space people will be going “Handsomely over the bricks, my dear. What can you possibly signify?” OTOH once I caught this mechanism, it makes it easier to stay on voice. I listen to the book with the closest “feel” to what I’m trying to write.
But the fourth and most awesome discovery is that I feel MUCH closer to the writer’s personality when I listen to books than when I read them. I can feel the person, there as it were. And the realization suddenly hits me:
4- I’m listening to the author tell a story. When these are the voices of a dead author – like Heinlein – or even an author who was much younger when he wrote something – like Pratchett’s early work – it feels like the narrator captured a moment in time and brought it to me, still alive an pulsing.
To my mind that’s a form of magic.
So, what are your experiences with audio books? (I don’t ask about movies, because we all know what they do.) Any fun anecdotes? (Oh, yeah, like the time the kids came in and I was – years ago. Got books from library, so had to go with what they had – painting and listening to a Nora Robert’s ahem scene. To this day they talk about me listening to porn.) HOW do you feel about audio books? Are they – to you – a legitimate translation of the story? Or do they feel somehow wrong, and like a completely different thing? And is it just me who reacts differently to the same book, read versus narrated?