A World of Speculation

I love audio books. It’s another place where technology has brought us closer to our roots, and those roots offer much nourishment.

Once upon a time, literature was stories, and stories were oral (and aural). People gathered with the clan to hear the clan’s history, its days of glory, how we got to be where we are.

And then there were books, but books were hand-written, unique, rare and precious, and so someone would read the book to the others.

Later, the books were mass produced, but Jane Austen and her family gathered in the drawing room of an evening, and someone read the latest novel or volume of poetry while the others sewed or fixed a clock or watched the fire.

When I was growing up, we gathered around the television. There were only two channels anyone could get in our town, and the next day, we all had a shared media experience to discuss.

Now there are hundreds of channels and millions of books, and the only shared experience is a Major Media Event, such as the OJ trial.

I exaggerate. Of course, many of us have seen the same movies and read the same books (this, I think, is one purpose of the best seller lists — to help people kick-start their social conversation). But the proportion of shared experience is much less than it was even a few decades ago.

Enter the book clubs and their editions with suggested discussion questions in the back. Even though reading has gained the reputation of a solitary activity, it’s really social, and our reading acquires new depth when we can discuss it, especially with some who is new to theh work as well.

Audio books bring back the storyteller by the campfire–but now the stories are of present and future as well as past; now they are fiction as well as history. I listen on the commute to work mostly and share the story with amazing actors and actresses who can do many voices, both male and female, as well as all sorts of attitudes and emotional states. The words enter my head through a different doorway (obviously), and they seems to reside in a deeper place–maybe because the transmission from symbols to sounds adds a barrier. The down side is that I don’t know how to spell a character’s name, and I don’t know where to look up something.

I think I’ve gone in two directions here: the social dimension of literature and the sound of literature, and maybe the two topics don’t really mesh in today’s blog. But I think both factors are important to anyone taking up the craft of the written story today.