Written by Francisca Goldsmith on Thursday, August 27, 2020
People who read a lot for pleasure frequently fall into the habit of skimming and thus lose contact with the delicacy and eloquence of much that the authors they read have invested in the work. Professional audiobook narrators counter that slide away from sinking into the art of literature. Narrators can bring the listening reader into awareness of all the nuances of word choice, structure, and literary craft that make the book worthy of attention. You probably know of listeners who say they “need” to speed up the playback of audiobooks or even boast about “listening” at 2 or even 5 times the recording speed. This equivalent of visual skimming cancels out the experience the author has designed and instead turns exposure to books—whether print or audio—into a consumption exercise rather than an activity that focuses on the here and now of discovering the linguistic arts packed into the book.
Professional narration of complex texts actually provides listening readers with the equivalent of a second or third visual reading at that very first listen. When we work through complex texts visually, the first time through, we need to correct the tones in our head from one end of a paragraph to the other if an unforeseen element comes up in between. Unraveling long and complicated sentences that present complex ideas or events also can send us scurrying back through pages or even chapters to get a better grip on elements we lost in our first reading. With audiobooks performed by narrators who have done this pre-reading and untangling ahead of recording their performances, clarity rings through at once for listeners because the emphases are properly placed, space for a moment’s reflection (silence between difficult passages) allow for intellectual digestion, and awareness of character traits that are yet to be revealed make for consistency in personification from the get-go.
Slow down. Listen. Books aren’t about getting through them. They are about potential and actual experiencing. Listen deliberately.