Listening my way through Woolf

25 Jan

Having read my Woolf novels so many times, and having to read so many other books for my M.A. exams, I’ve taken to listening to Woolf novels–and any others I can find–on my Kindle with Audible.com. Things I’ve learned:

1. A good narrator is key. You’re often going to have to stick to them for 6+ hours. Many classic novels have multiple narrators, and you can sample a few minutes of each. But Audible has a policy where you can return a book if you’re dissatisfied, and while I’ve not had to , a friend of mine has had no problem returning books and swapping them out for different versions if you decide against the first narrator you chose.

2. Read the right way, it’s not impossible to listen to stream of consciousness–and to me, is even preferable to a high-energy, more conventional piece, particularly because I can’t listen to a whole book in one stretch. Tuning in for 20 minutes here and there on a drive, or before bed, or when I wake up, or for 30 – 40 minutes while running at the gym: if I were in a novel that raced forward at lightning speed with too many characters, I’m afraid that in these small chunks, I’d lose the thread of the story.

3. My Kindle, bought in 2010 when the idea of an e-reader still sparked debate among literary types, was among the best purchases I’ve made. I still prefer regular books, but for travel, there’s nothing like the Kindle–and the fact that an ‘old’ model is still compatible with Audible makes me beyond happy. I anticipate one day having to get an iPad for academic purposes, but for pleasure reading–for novels, rather than for critical articles–I’ll be a loyal Kindle user, loving the fact that I can pretend my device is a real book by adding a book-like cover, and appreciating the lack of back-light.

4. You can really hear the repetition of phrases when listening to a book. The lyric quality of certain books (Mrs. Dalloway, for example), is really enhanced by a read-aloud.

5. My friend makes a case for British narrators rather than Americans. Jury’s still out for me: do I prefer something closer to my accent, or a slightly different one, for multiple hours of text?

6. Foreign language books. The selection, much like Amazon’s at first, is as follows: only in Spanish, and even then, not nearly as extensive as in English. That’s great for me–as there are quite a few Spanish books out there, and as I’ve seen some of the books from some of my grad classes online (somehow listening to Don Quijote seems like a good idea… or listening while reading along?). But I sort of don’t understand how other languages aren’t yet involved in the project. Or at least French. I’m sure at some point there will be French offerings, but for now, it’s just English or Spanish.

Thoughts on Audible.com?

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