Long readings put you to sleep? Audiobooks may be the key to banning literature


She had come to the library because her reading group’s discussion of “Light in August”Was coming, and she was desperate. She didn’t need a copy of the novel – she did – but every night, as she settled down to read, the demanding prose of Faulkner’s stream of consciousness faded before her eyes, and the sleep would follow soon. She had come hoping that a book on “Light in August” would help her, but I suggested something better: the audiobook.

A week later, she returned to tell me that she was elated by the struggles of Faulkner’s characters with past shame and future aspirations, as clarified and worthy by veteran actor and narrator Will Patton’s nuanced read. Carried by Patton’s soft rasp, his ears had enjoyed Faulkner’s rough lyricism in a way his eyes did not. She had even persuaded some of her fellow book group members to try the audiobook. The actor’s painstaking and emotionally sensitive performance had unlocked this difficult text in a way that no explanation, adaptation, or summary ever could. She had come back in search of an even more difficult recording of Faulkner “The sound and the fury”, Which we had, narrated in crisp clarity by Grover Gardner.

I first used audiobooks as a key to banning literature in the mid-1990s, when it was announced that the James Joyce estate had authorized a full recording of their towering epic.Odysseus”, A book in which I had strolled but that I had never read. Irish actor Donal Donnelly’s inspired performance was nothing short of an eye opener to me, refracting every momentary facet of this fast moving stream of life. The book chronicles the unfolding of a single day in the life of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus – June 16, 1904, or Bloomsday as it is more commonly known – in what turns out to be more than real time, because the story is over 40 years old. hours in the story. Although I may have missed a hint here or there, I was completely immersed in the magnitude of Joyce’s unforgettable work. I still haven’t read the whole book with my eyes, but I’ve listened to it twice now, and also enjoyed Marcella Riordan’s most recent ravishing performance from the “Molly Bloom’s Soliloquy. “” Ulysses “is now truly mine.

A few years later, I had agreed with friends to read “” by David Foster WallaceInfinite joke”Twice, failing each time. At the time, I was training to run a marathon, so the answer was obvious: kill two birds with one stone and finish that literary marathon using Sean Pratt’s 56-hour storytelling. The prolific Pratt is a true road warrior of the audiobook world whose skillful and intelligent storytelling will be especially familiar to non-fiction listeners. A master of seasoning the driest minutiae with plenty of expressive gravy, he was quite up to the challenge presented by Wallace’s cerebral and endlessly degressive epic. (Pratt even recounted a separate recording of the novel’s footnotes, eight hours long!) I won’t say that this audiobook made me a lifelong Wallace fan, but thanks to Pratt, I stuck to my workout schedule and crossed the book finish line with a few blisters and lots of funny laughs along the way.

I was reminded of these experiences last Bloomsday, when Naxos Audiobooks released the very first full-length recording of James Joyce’s most breathtaking work, “Finnegans Wake», Told with almost miraculous skill by Dublin actors Riordan and Barry McGovern. Although I own both paperback and hardcover editions, I had long given up hope of reading this most puzzling literary monument of the 20th century from cover to cover. Written in a language carefully invented by Joyce that only seems related in passing to English, “Finnegans Wake” at first glance appears to be largely gibberish. Still, my previous audio dives into Joyce assured me that the text my eyes were amazed at my ears could savor.

It is not easy to describe the experience of listening to the 29 hours of “Finnegans Wake”; among the words that come to mind: stunning, intoxicating, happy and hilarious. While it is customary to describe the book as “not for everyone,” this astonishing and inspired storytelling should swell the ranks of those who can now experience the book firsthand. I plan to listen to book in hand again, but also to use it as an occasional musical accompaniment to life.

And with Joyce in the back view, I can go in search of one last white whale. No, not “Moby Dick”: Marcel Proust’s “Souvenir of things from the past”! Every 150 hours of it.

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