07 October 2010

Story time

On reading aloud :

This, or something like it, is what happens when you get caught up in a book. You hear it in your head, and it takes over your waking existence a little, so you can’t wait to be done with whatever you’re doing and immerse yourself in the pages again. ...

Listening is how we begin our acquaintance with books, as our parents read them to us, and listening may be how we phase out of books as well; it’s easier, hypnotic almost, and allows you to do something else at the same time: drive, jog or attend to your e-mail. ...

Our reading and listening imaginations do much the same thing. Reading in bed, riding the subway with the iPod plugged in, driving the car and feeding CDs into the dashboard slot, we’re not transported from this life to another, exactly, but to a sort of halfway realm. We’re partly in East Egg, or wherever, and partly still in that cluttered mental office, where the phone rings — literally sometimes. We look out the window and see, oops, that we’ve just missed our subway stop or, worse, that a state trooper has just pulled alongside and he has his lights flashing.

from Charles McGrath's NYTimes review of "Gatz," based on The Great Gatsby

It's been a long time since someone has read a novel aloud to me, although it's a commonplace activity when it comes to church or Bible study and we read collectively read Scripture.  Somehow it's different, though, to have actual "story time."  Jim Dale, who narrates all of the Harry Potter books, is a superb example of a great reader, voices and all.  There's part nostalgia mixed in with theatrics and immersion - and yes, even some laziness of the brain, as McGrath mentions in his article.

Someone reading aloud does carry a different weight than reading on your own, although I would argue that it's not just about your own ability to concentrate on what's being said, but has equal parts to do with your building relationship with that particular book and your relationship with the narrator.  I don't ever recall my parents reading to me, but when I've read to children or attended public readings by authors, there's a sense of intangible connection between the words you speak, your voice, and the ear that listens.

Hm, I wouldn't mind a bedtime story now and again.