I’m addicted to reading. I’m not planning to stop, ever, because for me, reading is the best single skill I ever learned. Fiction is my draught of choice, specifically speculative, science fiction and fantasy. The best of human capability is the capacity to imagine worlds, abilities and experiences that are not representative of our consensual, ‘real’ world. A well-written story will pull you in and immerse you in another world and time, make you cry or laugh, and works as a forum for examining concepts of existence. Stories of dystopian futures serve as warning while far future stories give hope that we as a species can go beyond the present human condition that, in the words of Tom Robbins is, ‘desperate, as usual.’
So I escape. Too much? Maybe. I’m always looking for new authors, stories and worlds to explore and I’ve collected hardcovers of my favourite authors because the best stories are fun to revisit. In recent years I’ve discovered e-books and I’m reading even more because I can download books from the library and my virtual library has over a thousand titles. I love that I can have hundreds of books in my hand, and I read more widely with this newfound ease.
It’s hard to get other things done when reading so I’ve branched into audio books. Listening is not my preferred way to absorb a story and the quality varies greatly depending on the reader/performer and the production values. Some stories are too complex for the initial read to be via audio. I imagine The Game of Thrones would be too confusing, with all the unusual names and changing voices. I listened to Cyteen, by one of my favourite sci-fi authors, C.J. Cherryh, and found I needed to re-wind frequently so that I could fully comprehend the concepts and relationships. Still, I’ve found that re-visiting stories I’ve read before in their audio format can be most entertaining, although, again, the performer or poor editing can ruin the story.
Which leads me to my withdrawal. I’ve recently finished the Harry Potter audio books, performed amazingly by Jim Dale. I can’t say enough good about these. He makes the stories come alive in a way I’ve never encountered and creates distinctive voices for all the characters that are exactly what I would hear in my head if I was reading to myself. He truly performs the scenes, changing characters within the many conversations with an ease that bogles the mind. After each audio performance I watched the movies to remind myself of that version. J.K. Rowling created a complex world and story with nuances that the movies cannot ably portray. The gist of the stories is there but some of the nuances, that kindness and friendship are the motivations of Harry and his friends, are missing. In The Deathly Hallows movie Creature is treated rather more harshly than in the book and the concern for elves is not as evident. Reading the books is the only way to experience the complexity of the story and the relationships and for those who don’t read, the audio books are an excellent substitute . In a way, the audio books are even better than silently reading the books. This is the first time I have encountered audio that is better than simply reading to myself. And so, I am going through withdrawal from a marvellously created world, admirably portrayed. My ears are tuned to the stories and I’ve yet to move on.