The Joy of Listening


I just finished listening to Ruby Dee’s gripping reading of Zora Neale Hurston’s book Their Eyes Were Watching God.  This was the first experience I’ve had with Hurston and with Ruby Dee. 

I am shaken.

I am riveted. 

I am bruised.

I need to turn the pages, think about the phrases, but I can’t imagine the reading of this book ever being close to as good as listening to this book.  Dee’s cadences were slow and sonorous. Just hearing her voice gave me pictures of the characters. During the narrative of the flood Dee was shouting and I wanted to stand up and shout, “De lake is coming!”  This book seems designed to be received through the ears instead of through the eyes.  Phonics get in the way of reading it.

I need to collect my thoughts before I respond to the book.

But I am compelled to tell you, dear reader, that some books are better in the audio version than in print.  Off my cuff, allow me to recommend:

Michel Chevalier’s reading captures the tones of a native of France.
Listening to this memoir is the audio equivalent to Crème brûlée.

At the time I posted this, six used CD sets of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
are available at Amazon (click on link) for under $1.62 (+ 3.99 shipping).
For less than it costs to see a movie you could have 8+ hours of
Lisette Lecat’s luscious African accents.

If an Irish brogue is your cuppa, you can’t go wrong with
Frank Delaney’s reading of Simple Courage.
I’m puzzled that so few know about this rip-roaring, harrowing adventure story.

Sissy Spacek’s languorous reading of To Kill a Mockingbird
remains my very favorite audio book.
Sissy is Scout Finch.
Her voice remains in my mind years after I first heard this performance.

There are drawbacks to audio books.
It’s hard to bookmark a sentence you want to remember.
It’s awkward to transcribe portions in your journal.

But if the book come from a part of the world
where words are pronounced differently,
where dialects lift words out of their common clothing,
where idioms are employed,
where hearing the voice of the narrator enriches the words,
go to audio.