Read Out Loud

Have you been read to lately?  After reading Charles McGrath’s New York Times article, Heard Any Good Books Lately, Zelda? – I got nostalgic for that warm feeling of being read to – like getting your back scratched.

Reading aloud is often relegated to well-meaning volunteers giving relief to overworked teachers, or parents trying to sooth small children into sleep.  Read Aloud programs have long been the territory of reading teachers and literacy advocates, but  McGrath uses his review of the play “Gatz” – “a dramatization of the act of reading itself – of what happens when you immerse yourself in a book” to remind us how different listening to a story is from reading it.

Having just finished a marathon trip of two consecutive overnight flights, thinking I would read myself through it – and as a veteran of long-haul driving, using books on tape to divert my attention and sometimes help me miss an exit – I can relate.  Listening to books is different, distracting, dangerous –  and soothing.

It’s easier to lose a few chapters as the tape rolls on than to stare at a page for some minutes, realizing you didn’t register words and then going back to reconnoiter.   Sometimes, losing a few chapters is irrelevant with some books you listen to – especially those read by the author and maybe those intoned by your Kindle.    I prefer those British actors who easily channel soprano-voiced matrons and suave baritone heroes.

McGrath offers good resources for listening.

“(Dickens’) novels read as if they were written with a listening audience in mind…and hold up well in a car or on the iPod.  So do Thackeray, Trollope, Wilkie Collins, George Eliot…a book that’s long and plot-driven…a nineteenth century novel…”

Those tranquilizing tones may lull you into sleep and you may miss a few chapters here and there, but it won’t matter.