Last night, I went to my first Business Statistics class, one more step in the lengthy walk towards a graduate degree. It was also my first evening class, and though the school possesses a decent faculty and reasonable prices, it's also an entire county away. Which means lots of driving. In south Florida. During rush hour. Sure, I could take the Interstate, but I might be better off walking given how the flow of traffic congeals from four to seven p.m. So that leaves one of the spotlight-studded parallel streets, an option that’s swifter, although only relatively so. Seems I'm going to spend a lot of time in the car over the next few months.
I’m not complaining, though. I plan to fill that time with audiobooks.
Like those who lived back before printing presses, paperbacks and PDFs, we start life with stories being auditory objects. They’re crooned by our mothers when we’re still in the crib. They’re whispered by our fathers during dark nights around the campfire. Then something happens. We learn our letters. We gain literacy. We discover the library and used-book stores and Barnes & Noble. And stories go inward, become silent, stop being spoken or heard.
Now, no one should knock the delights of an hour alone with a good book. But we ought to recall the peculiar virtues of oral reading. A story performed slows us down. It gives us every word and won’t let us skip a jot or tittle. It lingers over riches of description, over the cadences of lovely wordings that the eye darts past so easily. It allows for performance, for letting the strongman sound like a lumbering hulk or permitting the femme fatale to truly smolder. And if the reader happens to also be the author, well, that’s something special indeed.
Thanks to the continuing death of physical storage media (and the concomitant demise of the accursed abridged version), you can find more audiobooks than ever -- and more that are free, too. The Escape Artists’ trio of podcasts offer up ear-tickling joy for lovers of SF (Escape Pod), fantasy (PodCastle) and horror (Pseudopod). TTA Press -- publishers of Interzone, Black Static and Crimewave -- regularly syndicates its best shorts at Transmissions From Beyond, as do the editors of the online magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Splatterpulp author Scott Sigler has podcasted over a half-dozen of his books. And Neil Gaiman has put up a live reading of his latest project, The Graveyard Book, at his official Web site, along with numerous stories and poems at Last.fm.
So what are you waiting for? Get to listening!
(Picture: CC 2008 by suchitra prints)