Words also sound beautiful. When authors used to introduce their own talking books, Thomas Mann, referring to his novel, Buddenbrooks, told his listeners:
"An epic is for the ear more than for the eye. In early times it was said and sung, it was listened to—and, as a matter of fact, this book too was listened to before it was looked at, when the young author read it aloud as he wrote it, to relatives and friends."I know a man who is blind. He listens to talking books, especially character-driven stories about ordinary lives, which he orders via the RNIB. Only five percent of published books are available in this way, he told me, although the choice is still huge. He may not turn pages in his hands, but the recorded voice unfolds and shifts the scenes in his mind.
In fiction we all lose touch fleetingly with our own selves in order to slip into the worlds of others, to feel undercurrents heaving with secrets, to witness the struggle against the gathering waves and to worry that the protagonist might be swept away. Whether we hear the words or see them, the most important part is to feel their weight and search their strata.
Without being able to see the words, without feeling the paper and breathing in the scent of the pages, perhaps the layers of the story and the characters become even more profound.
The descriptions of what my friend 'saw' when he listened to one particular book we discussed showed that my interpretation of the characters was shallower than his. I had absorbed far less, unrolled fewer layers. He had uncovered greater depths and unearthed more hidden treasure than I had managed to find.
However, the words alone had not led him to these discoveries. All that was unsaid/unwritten, all the pauses/paragraph breaks and every discreet trace of foreboding spoke to him too. When I had turned the pages, I missed some of those shadows and echoes. My friend who listens, saw them all.
|Brian loves the fragrance of paper, occasionally attacks it, and listens to first drafts without wincing.|