Saturday, 11 April 2009

Shall I read it to you?

There is no activity more satisfying than reading to a receptive child. I read out loud to my son long before he could recognise letters and long after he could have read the book for himself. I don't think I am giving away any secrets when I tell you that he still reads books aloud to his wife (sorry Dominic and Karen!) (whether she wants it read or not.)
In the days when my hearing was "normal" I used to listen to "Book at Bedtime" and that way I enjoyed a lot of books I would probably never have read for myself.
A couple of days ago I read that sales of talking books keep increasing, that more and more books are being adapted for radio as it is a rapidly growing market. For those with poor or no sight this must be very heartening news - to be able to enjoy one's favourite books again, albeit in an adapted version.
But it seems that the real reason for the market growth is more likely to be that so many of us do huge commutes to work and are stuck in traffic for such a long time. I can see the attraction of listening to a chunk of "War and Peace" while stuck in a jam on the M25. But the question I want ot put to you, my readers, is does this mean that eventually less people will actually read books - that they will become so used to hearing them that they will eventually forget that books are really for reading to oneself?
I think this has already been happening for a while with the televised versions of the classics.
Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Brideshead, French Lts. Woman - it is interesting that the paperbacks issued after the film/TV series always show the actors from the production in their roles. These pictures sell the books - I wonder how many of those who buy them actually get round to reading them.
For me there is no substitute for the written word. I was a great Gregory Peck fan and I loved "Moby Dick" - it was a great adaptation (not yesterday I grant you - but then I wasn't born yesterday) but watching Gregory Peck standing by the mast in a storm, with the wind blowing through his hair in a particularly sexy way, was no substitute for reading the Herman Melville version, for marvelling at his use of words, for using my imagination to create my own characters. As I read the book before seeing the film, I can honestly say that my Captain Ahab bore no relation to Gregory Peck and the same goes for Queque too.
Reading is one of the most pleasurable activities. To sit down with a good, well-written book, to feel its pages, to smell its print, to hold it in your hands, to re-read a particularly pleasing paragraph or chapter, to put it down, go and make a cup of tea and then come back to it, to create a whole new world inside your head, where the characters are yours and yours alone (for I am sure my Ahab wasn't Melville's Ahab any more than Gregory Peck was) - that is a joy and a skill which needs nurturing through every generation. Is it in danger of disappearing to the talking book, or am I worrying unnecessarily?

24 comments:

Hildred and Charles said...

Are you feeling better, Weaver?

On the subject of Talking Books, I find that they lull me to sleep, and then when you wake with a start you have to go to all the bother of backing up the tape, or if you are listening to the radio you have lost the last three paragraphs forever.

I'm all for books, - long may they live!

Happy Easter to you and to all those you hold dear.

Elizabeth said...

I used to really love the serials on Woman's Hour.
Particularly when I was ill as a child.
My father read both Alices on
Sunday afternoons by the fire after we had taken the rather wild chocolate lab for a very long walk.
See misty memories.
After 9/11, I was teaching 17 year olds a survey course on "Themes in Children's Literature". All they wanted was me to read stories to them.......

Nothing I like better on a wet afternoon than a good read......of a REAL book.
I cannot read more than paragraph on line.

willow said...

One of my fondest memories is having my three pumpkins cuddled around me for the reading of a good book.

I absolutely love the film "Moby Dick" with Gregory Peck. I own a copy and watch it several times a year. Orson Welles does a marvelous job in his soliloquy as the preacher.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Hope you are feeling better Weaver.

I cannot imagine books ever disappearing, for all the reasons you say. I like reading aloud, and being read to - from books not tapes! I've only ever listened to one book on tape, and that was a Harry Potter read by Stephen Fry - which was wonderful because of Stephen Fry's voice!

Heather said...

Nothing will oust books for me. I have always loved them and can remember my disappointment when the Poldark series was first shown on TV. I think I actually said out loud: 'Ross doesn't look like that!' It always annoys me when a dramatisation makes changes to an author's work. If the book was considered good enough for adaptation why try to 'improve' it? I must say I prefer to read to myself, but don't mind reading to someone else if that is what they would like. All things go in circles or cycles, so if reading becomes unfashionable for a while, some bright spark will eventually rediscover it and it will be the latest thing again. I was faithful to Gregory Peck for many years! My father took me to see the Hornblower film(s)? when I was about 14.

Derrick said...

Hello Weaver,

I'm sure books will be around for a long time. As you say, immersing yourself in another world, which you create in your mind, is wonderful. We envisage the characters and I, too, wonder why a dark-haired person in the book suddenly becomes blonde in the film version! I also know that I wouldn't be able to concentrate on listening to a book if I was trying to drive etc. No worries there!

Cathy said...

My mother read aloud to the two of us and I read aloud to my girls. I read aloud to children at my daughters' school for about 5 years and I loved the faces of the children while I read. I never had a child not listen even in the older grades. Reading to children exposes them to books they may never have picked up in a library because the cover wasn't flashy enough for them. I think reading to a child can push them to become readers. We have 4 out of the six in our home who are readers. I read to Al's children early in our relationship and it helped build a relationship with them.
I do not think the printed word will ever go out of stlye as so many love to read actual pages of a book. I work for the blind and I hear all the time how they miss reading an actual book but they are thankful for books on tape and cd. Books on tape are wonderful for those who travel long commutes or are handicapped. I have favorite readers like others who listen to talking books but nothing surpasses being read to by a loved one or being able to flip a page to a favorite part of a book and reread it.
I hope you are feeling all springy for Easter!

HelenMHunt said...

I'm in too minds about talking books. I have listened to a couple, but I prefer to physically have the book in my hands and read it at my own speed. I also don't think a taped book is a substitute for a parent reading aloud to a child and hope that doesn't become the norm.

Very interesting post.

Jane Moxey said...

About screenplays being adapted from great literature... I think the value in that is that the story and characters might reach a wider audience, for one thing. The art of screenplay writing is a very different talent than book writing. The talented screenplay writer is always aware of the image he wants portraying on a screen, so his "palette" is the screen while the book reader's screen is the imagination! Both wonderful and magical "stages" for story telling. I watch every incarnation on Masterpiece Theatre here in the U.S. of all the wonderful classic English novels being re-created into screen versions and I think those just keep getting better and better! The recent BBC version of "Oliver Twist" was so good! And my grown up sons still love it when I read aloud, too.

Arija said...

Can't rightly give an objective comment. Five out of six of my g-children are insatiable readers. They were weaned on A.A.Milne, and the nursery rhymes of three countries, can still recite 'king John was not a good man'as easily as "the quality of mercy", or Hillaire Belloc's cautionary verses. Daughter read War and Peace in a weekend when she was eleven and enjoyed every word. She is one of the most widely read people I know.
TV and films are like eating predigested food, they leave no room for stimulationg your imagination or tasste.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

I don't think anything will ever replace a book for a reader—because only a book is a book. There's a feel and smell to paper and print (and sometimes its aging); pages with print on them reflect the light and within it our eyes see information or illustrations—and this is not the same as text illuminated from behind, like on an electronic screen. Books require no batteries or power source or anything else except desire and time and a candle's worth of light; they're portable and practically indestructible; inexpensive; decorative on shelves (perhaps more so to fellow readers); and available in endless content, age, variation, language, etc.

As to books-on-tape (or CD) I listen to them all the time, and have done so for years. I didn't like them at all at first, however. I began trying them at bedtime. They put me to sleep—and I often returned a BOT to the library having heard the few part of the first chapter 30 nights in a row…and nothing else. Then I began taking them on long driving trips when I traveled alone and was doing several hundred miles in a day. That was a bit better. I started listening to them while working in my darkroom. And gradually I kept adding them to times in my life when I simply couldn't pick up a book and read it myself. After lunch today, I listened to a chapter from a P.D. James book while doing the dishes.

I'd guess I now go through maybe a half-dozen BOT per month now, except when I'm on the road; then it might be a book per day. And the oddest thing has happened. Over the years I've listened to at least a couple thousand BOT. The "readers" have gotten better, or I've grown more accustomed to the experience. Whatever, the truth is, there are any number of books where I now have no idea whether I read it myself or listened to it on CD.

gleaner said...

Gregory Peck...for me, his role as Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird, is probably the most memorable, absolutely gorgeous.

I was concerned that books may disappear with the inventions of the e-books and the portable e-books. Nothing can replace the smell and feel of books, I'll never turn my back on books.

Recently I have enjoyed listening to books at night, to lull to sleep mainly.

Perhaps the rise in talking books is our ageing population together with a need to tune-off to the chaotic and busy worlds we live in.

BT said...

Like everyone else here, I do not think you need to worry Weaver. I love picking up a book and pouring through books in bookshops, reading the cover story and making up my mind which to buy. I read in fits and starts unless the book is truly gripping.

I have listened to books on tape in the past. Mostly The Big Friendly Giant which we used to have in the car! Funnily enough, I lovely listening to radio plays and short stories and imagining the characters as one does in a book.

My father used to love books on tape as his sight failed but given the choice he would have continued reading from 'the real thing'. I think you have no need to worry.

Dubois said...

I read in bed everynight and I have a book on the go in the car that I can pick up and read when I am in a car park and want to have a few moments on my own. At the moment the car book is Boy, the story of Roald Dahl's school days. I have poetry books scattered around the house to read when I am in the mood. I could not live without books. I do not have any means of "listening" to books being a bit old fashioned in that respect. However, if the time comes when I need a Talking Book I am sure I will come to it.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I love books too and I t hink they'll always survive, though i think reading online and talking books and those handheld reading screen things will replace them for some people.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for the comments - of course it is really preaching to the converted isn't it? The fact that we all enjoy writing and reading each others work suggests that we are readers and also book lovers. But it is encouraging to find that you all read avidly - most of you remember being read to yourselves - and you read to your children - so between us we can keep books alive! I do agree that audio books have a place in our lives - doing a laborious job (like Scribe's washing up) is surely enlivened with a bit of background - and if it is a good novel then so much the better.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for your comments on my "bug" - glad to say I am feeling "normal" today - whatever that is!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for your comments on my "bug" - glad to say I am feeling "normal" today - whatever that is!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for your comments on my "bug" - glad to say I am feeling "normal" today - whatever that is!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Movie adaptations, even the good ones, never seem to hold a candle to the versions that play inside my head as I read a book. I do like to be read to...my husband reads me ghost stories aloud, which is delightful...but nothing can replace a real, live, book in my hands.

One of my husbands favourite movies is Moby Dick. He likes to watch it on cold and rainy Sunday afternoons.

Janice Thomson said...

I think you are right in more ways than one. With the advent of the internet too and being able to just download a book (I sheepishly admit to having done this once myself)real books are slowly but surely becoming a thing of the past.
But nothing can ever take the place of a real book, the feel and the smell of it...especially an old one.

EB said...

I agree with you very much.

I don't read any more, much. Well, I toy with about a book every couple of months. I spend my time on the net instead. It's not as good and it's a bad habit to spend so long on it. I am in the midst of a campaign to address it, in fact.

Coastcard said...

I came across this post on Professor David Morley's excellent blog, and thought of you. It is more on the subject of letter writing than book reading, but it touches on both ...

I wonder if other bloggers share a twinge of guilt: I love my books (shelves & shelves of them), but I hate to think about the trees ...

Robyn said...

I love to have a book sitting firmly in my hands, the scent of the pages wafting with every turn. Films and talking books come second and third.