It takes more than genius to keep me reading a book. — E.B. White on Ulysses
I don’t read. (Who has time?) What I do, I listen. Specifically, I listen to audiobooks. I listen in the car. I listen in bed late at night.
I taught Nick to listen. He listens to Nora and me when we read to him at bedtime. He listens to recorded books on his own during the day.
Is there any pleasure greater than being read to? No. Well, maybe a very few things—a juicy, ripe peach for example, the scent of an Abraham Darby rose. One or two other things I can’t think of now, probably.
But in my heaven, every day is Sunday and I’m living in a house in the country, sitting on a porch overlooking a lake, listening to a good book. I listen all afternoon, every afternoon, as I watch the clouds shape themselves into dragons.
The books come to me–through the air–whenever I want them. A few clicks and they arrive on my iPod. O brave new world!
You can’t tell me the Internet is all bad.
GAME OF THRONES
So it happened that I decided to listen to George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. I’m not a sword and sorcery guy, but I wanted to see what the fuss was about.
I got the first book.
I liked it. I more than liked it. I won’t tell you it’s great literature—I won’t tell you it’s Melville or even Jonathan Franzen—but I’ll lay you odds that people will more likely be listening to R. R. Martin than Franzen a hundred years from now.
I’m about two thousand pages in at this point and the guy can tell a story. He turns conventions upside down, he throws me curves I don’t see coming, his characters live and breathe.
Tyrion Lannister, a dwarf, rivals Falstaff as a creation. He’s not a magical, fairy-tale dwarf with a pot of gold. He’s an actual human dwarf, deformed, unfinished, with a big fat wallet: “I’m a monster, as well as a dwarf. You should charge me double.”
So I’m listening in my car and I get to the middle of the third book and there’s a glitch: a couple of chapters are missing. This doesn’t usually happen with audiobooks, but it happened with this one to me.
Hosed by technology. What do do?
Print books! I think. I’ll get a hold of a printed copy.
I pull over and whip out my iPhone.
I log into the library website. They’ve got copies, but a waiting list as long as my arm. It’ll be weeks.
I’m near my friend Eduardo’s house. Eduardo, the father of Nick’s friend Jay, is a real sword and sorcery guy, unlike me. He’s got all the books.
I pull in to Eduardo’s driveway. Unfortunately he’s moving (Portland!) and everything he owns is in boxes. He has no idea where the volume is.
“You could buy it on Amazon,” says Eduardo.
“And wait?” I say. “I’ve got to find out what happens to Tyrion.”
“I could tell you.”
“Don’t you dare.”
“You could go to a bookstore.”
Borders! Yes! But Borders, the Borders that used to be around the corner, is gone.
“Barnes and Noble,” Eduardo says. “There’s one across town.”
There used to be a Barnes and Noble a few blocks from us, but it too closed.
“I don’t have time to drive across town,” I say. “I’ve got to meet Nora.”
On my way home I reflect on the dozen bookstores that used to reside within a few blocks of our house. Now I can’t think of any.
This is your fault, I say to myself. You have killed print. You have killed bookstores. You and your need to be read to. You and your iPod, your Amazon, your digital obsession.
As I pull into our house, I can feel I’m starting to panic. I need Nora to talk me down.
“What about the college store?” says Nora.
We live near a college. A college will still have a bookstore, won’t it?
“Do we have the number?” I say.
“Look on the Internet,” Nora says.
“I’m looking for a book called Storm of Swords. It’s part of the Game of Thrones series.”
“Yes, I’m familiar with it,” says a young female voice. “We have lots of copies.”
Parking will be impossible at the college. This is a job for my bike.
Half an hour later the young lady I spoke to on the phone escorts me to the Fantasy/SciFi section. A whole shelf for Game of Thrones.
I take down a copy of Storm of Swords and notice the price is $17. $17 for the 20 pages I need. I figure I’ve already supported the author. This is extortion.
I sit down on the floor and open the book. The abstract patterns in front of me don’t make sense. Then I can make out letters, words. The words are arranged in sentences.
I begin to read, slowly at first, then gathering momentum. It feels strange, but it comes back to me. I’m reading a novel! My fingers are getting smudged!
I finish in twenty minutes, replace the book on the shelf, and head out.
“Not your cup of tea?” says the young lady.
Do I confess?
I feel the Muse stirring. I have these calling cards for Just Add Father, the sum of my marketing effort. I give her one.
“Check this out next month,” I say.
“You review books?” she says.
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:
Art Passions — The Reluctant Dragon (above) by Maxfield Parrish comes from this lovely website, which warehouses and merchandises public domain art from some of my favorite artists. Among them are Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, and the Preraphaelites.
On audiobooks: You can search hassle free for audiobooks in the public domain on Audiobooks For Free. Your public library will have them as well, plus audiobooks not in the public domain. The widest selection is on Audible, a commercial site owned by Amazon, where it’s cheaper if you buy in bulk.
Reading troubles? Tell. Tell. Just Add Father is listening. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)
If you like this post and have a Facebook, Twitter, or other social media account, please consider sharing it by clicking one of the buttons below: