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Sunday, April 14, 2019

The joy of audio books, like when they stop you in your tracks | Opinion - Los Angeles Times

Photo: Amy Wilentz
I’ve come to see time in the car, or walking the dog, or cooking a meal as opportunities to read, though audio books are a different kind of reading, recommends Amy Wilentz, author, most recently, of “Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter from Haiti.

Photo: Guido Mieth / Getty Images
My first experience listening to audio books was with my children, early in the Harry Potter era, when the books were just being published. I had taken the kids on a skiing adventure in upstate New York, where I discovered they were committed non-skiers. Instead, they swam in the little motel’s pool, and we listened to the discs of “The Prisoner of Azkaban” every chance we got. We’d rush to the car to go bowling, and then linger to listen. We’d hurry to the car to get a meal, then linger again, reluctant to step out of the story.

Jim Dale, the actor who read the books, made my life with kids in the car magical and exciting rather than what it usually was: another locus for yelling, whining and irritation. Sometimes, after parking at home, we’d take the discs with us and sit stony eyed on the couch in the apartment, continuing to listen, even though all of us had already read for ourselves whichever book Dale was reading us. 

Now, decades later, I live in Los Angeles and have a grueling commute to work that can involve hours of inching along the 405. It is bearable for one reason: audio books. I’ve come to see time in the car, or walking the dog, or cooking a meal as opportunities to read, though it is a different kind of reading, one that is overlaid on the passing terrain.

Audio books blend your actual experience in life — that is, wherever you are while listening, whatever is happening to you there — with the book itself, so that you have specific book memories in specific places that are not always a chair or your desk or your bed...

Here are two things that happened to me because of audio books. One: I had to stop in my tracks.

Rereading “Anna Karenina,” this time on audio, I got to the legendary pages about Vronsky’s horse race. The section is famous for its breath-stopping suspense, which I remembered from reading the book many years earlier. I recalled that, like so many things in “Anna Karenina,” it did not turn out well. So I’m walking along, and Vronsky’s flying over fences with his beloved, coddled mare, Frou-Frou, and his rival Makhotin is neck and neck astride Gladiator when … I have to turn the book off. It’s too stressful and exciting.
Read more... 

Recommended Reading
Book lovers at the annual L.A. Times Festival of Books at USC on Saturday.
Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times
Susan Orlean talks ‘The Library Book’ on first day of L.A. Times Festival of Books by Marisa Gerber, writes narrative stories about life in Los Angeles and across the Southland for the Los Angeles Times.

Source: Los Angeles Times