Audiobooks

I may have mentioned that I have a substantial commute to work. Others might not consider forty minutes each way substantial, but I do. The point is that I spend a great deal of time each week in the car. Some might spend this time listening to the radio: music or new or talk. I listen to books.

I used to check out books on tape or CD at the library. My new ride came without a CD player, something I did not notice until I got it home. I mean, why wouldn’t a car have a CD player? Apparently I am old and thus did not realize music is now delivered via mp3, or streamed, or through some other magical conveyance. Anyway, I had to adapt. So now I download library audiobooks to my mobile phone which then play then via Bluetooth over the car’s media system. It works, but the options remain limited.

Anyway, I go through a lot of books. Often I end up sitting in the car a minute or two after I arrive at my destination in order to finish up a particularly engrossing section.

I love the immersive nature of the medium. Especially if the narrator possesses a pleasant, versatile voice and an engaging delivery. Not all of them do. Some — generally celebrities, apparently hired for name recognition rather than vocal skills — perform reasonably well, delivering the emotion and intonations in a skillful fashion but fail to pronounce certain words properly. That never fails to eject me from the story. The narrator continues on, of course, but I’m still back at the point where he screwed up the pronunciation of “mischievous” or what have you. It might be thirty seconds or so before I am drawn back into the story, wondering what I’ve missed in the meantime. (One of the technical issues with newer audiobook media is the difficulty involved in or impossibility of rewinding. That was never a problem with tapes.)

But the sheer fact that I feel as if I’ve been physically removed from another world speaks to the immersive nature of audio books. Right now I’m revisiting some of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey and Maturin novels. I’m not a sailor. I have no notion of what he is describing half the time when he writes of catheads and futtocks. But I don’t care. I don’t need to imagine the specifics, I’m too engrossed in the sensation, the spell woven by the words he employs to depict nautical doings, creating a poetic shell enclosing the reader that evokes the feeling of the events more convincingly than he could by mechanistically conveying the information in a didactic manner. While he was a skilled enough writer that I’m sure he could explain to me how and why to rig a preventer backstay, I’m happier simply existing in the bubble universe he creates through his terminological poetry — as read by a gifted narrator, that other, essential component.

So, three cheers for audiobooks.