Audio books confuse me.
For whatever reason I’ve just never been into them. Turning off the car too often, having too short of a train commute – whatever it is, the constant stop/start on the audio means I lose the thread of the story and usually never return.
Driving 8-12 hours a day will change that. During our epic cross-country trek, we ended up burning through three: Mission Song by John Le Carre, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris and No Way to Treat a First Lady by Christopher Buckley.
All strong for a variety of reasons, all weak in some points. But it is the medium that sticks with me.
In an age of shorter and shorter attention spans, twitter-length poetry, and 15-second videos, an audio book is a commitment. Hell, a book is a commitment.
The voice acting (particularly that of David Oyelowo) transported me in a way that probably hasn’t been widely appreciated since the peak of the radio era. One voice found a way to work through numerous characters, intonations, narrations and situations.
An actor not only has to be clear and precise, differentiating people and events, but also invisible – conveying the story without undue distraction to the listener.
Unlike creating voices in your head as you read, the characters are given life by another, adding an interesting dimension to the experience of the book itself.
In the case of Sedaris, whose voice is familiar to my fellow NPR addicts, his voice only gives more depth to his reflections on life’s bizarre moments. On the other side, Tim Matheson’s familiar voice for Buckley’s satirical novel often kept me thinking: Where do I know him from?
While my life (thankfully) doesn’t often occasion the type of time needed for audiobooks, I’m newly open to this form of “reading.”