Falling For Audio Books by Rachel Basch
For years I adhered to strict rules when it came to audio books. I only listened to books I couldn’t afford taking the time to read — certain self-help titles, for the most part. And I only turned to books on tape (and later CD) as a way to shorten interminably long car rides. Then gradually, I began to bend my own rules. Such is the slippery slope toward many an addiction. It started with the incongruity between the length of an audio book and the duration of a car trip. I’d get back home, but I’d still have a couple of chapters left to go. So, I’d drive to the supermarket or post office listening, finding myself strangely engaged and animated on an otherwise tedious Tuesday. Slowly, self-help books gave way to biographies, and biographies to memoirs. From there I made the leap to fiction, but only fiction I’d previously read, Dickens, Tolstoy, James, Wharton. The actors reading those 19th and early 20th century novels were in
This past summer, scanning the library shelves for an audio book in preparation for a five-hour car ride, I saw, against all odds, Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings, a book I’d fully intended to read the legitimate way. But the 12 discs in their handy carrying case called to me, and I was powerless to ignore their lure. I’d barely reached the county line before I was hooked. The longer I listened, the deeper the intoxication. My round trip complete and hours of the audio book remaining, I rode around town listening, bereft each time I had to turn off the ignition. I simply could not leave those characters with all their predicaments in my dashboard, and I began slipping the CDs out of the car and bringing them into the house. I spent hours this summer sitting by an open window at night, listening to that remarkable novel. (And, as with any novel that so profoundly affects me, I then had to buy the book, to re-read and underline as I did.)
I’m now incapable of driving 10 minutes without being ensconced in story. I’m like the character of the mother in Alice Munro’s “Accident,” who, when she is without a big fat book feels “coverless.” Recently, I decided to come clean about my addiction, and I confessed to a friend, another writer. She said she’d had difficulty learning to read and still loved hearing books read aloud. I, too, struggled as a reader when I was young, and I know I was read to for much longer than most children. So, as I impostor my way through adulthood, I’ve come to depend on this reassuring echo of childhood, the audible voice of an authoritative narrator accompanying me on the journey.
Rachel Basch is the author of The Listener, out now from Pegasus Books.
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