Voices In My Head

In last Sunday's NYT Book Review, I read the essay Wired For Sound by the paper's national legal correspondent, John Schwartz.. In it,  Schwartz explains how he and his wife are at odds when it comes to audiobooks; she won't dare listen while he prefers audio to paper. Schwartz says It's because he "absorbs" the material better by listening to it than by actually reading it. His wife on the other hand espouses, “I want the voices in my head for the characters...I don’t want that person in my ear.”.

I listen to audiobooks regularly, with no guilt, no noisome feeling that I am somehow, as Schwartz says in the essay, "cheating". Rather, my reason for listening to books is far different than Schwartz. Since I tend to be a pokey reader and since, as many will agree, personal time is precious, I listen in order to consume as much written matter as possible in my allotted span here on Earth. I mean, who knows, I may drown tomorrow, without having  harpooned Moby Dick. I may be flattened by a train without having caught Anna Karenina. And what if, at Citi Field watching my beloved Mets, an errant foul ball does me in, without having fielded A Prayer for Owen Meany. Anything can happen. So on my way to and from work, while walking the dog or on the treadmill, I plug in my iPod and listen....to novels, history, science, biography; whatever.

I find myself sacrificing the "voices in my head" for the treacly lilt of Simon Vance reading A Dance to the Music of Time or the deliberative cadence of Paul Michael plodding through the new Garfield bio, Destiny of the Republic. But that is a small price to pay compared to the pleasure sustained from the author's words. Besides, some narrators are quintessential to the entire literary experience, like the rollicking brogue of Jim Norton barreling through The Third Policeman or the uncanny comic timing of Woody Allen plucking away in  Without Feathers.

So many books, so little time. In my own little way I've attempted to mitigate that plaintive truism with the aid of audiobooks. I just hope I can get through all seven volumes of Remembrance of Things Past before Alzheimer's sets in.


  1. I didn't catch this article- but I am with you! I love to read books in print, but I also adore audio versions (if they are read well). I listen in the car when I am driving to work or running errands. I must read at least 50 books this way a year. I think it is a good use of my time and I am exposed to stories that I would not know if I hadn't listened to them. I don't see it as cheating because I am still listening and comprehending the story (much the same way children are when teachers read aloud to them each day). I imagine the characters and the story- and as I am a fast reader- I actually slow down and take in more of the details. I haven't gotten any books for my ipod yet- but I have it on my list of things to do.

    Thanks for sharing! I really enjoyed this post!



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