I hear ya

I recently posted that, due to podcasts becoming mainstream, people aren’t as snooty about audiobooks as they used to be.

But, according to this article in the NYT, many people in book clubs (bastions of literary pretension) disagree.

Apparently, listening to the book is cheating.

I feel sorry for anyone who thinks that reading letters on a page is so demanding that listening to someone read the exact same letters is somehow cheating. And anyway, cheating what? Cheating who? Is it cheating because listening is easier than reading? That makes no sense.

Cheating in school is watching the movie when you’re supposed to read the book. It’s not cheating because it’s easier. It’s cheating because the goal of the exercise includes actually reading the book.

I assume that the goal of a book club is to enjoy a story, including the manner of writing, word choice, metaphors, style, and tone. You can’t get that from a movie, but you can certainly get it from listening to someone read it to you.

I don’t happen to listen to audiobooks, but I do read to my wife. A lot. Is she cheating? Is she somehow not getting the language, the art, the style, the plot, the character that I’m getting? If not, why not? How is she missing it?

And anyway, is it easier to listen than to read? Maybe you have to concentrate more to really get what’s happening when you listen. I often find that when someone reads to me, I have trouble following the details unless I really concentrate. Maybe people who read the book are cheating.

Because really, reading isn’t hard. Some books are hard because the words are unusual, or the allusions are obscure. They’re not hard due to having to look at the letters on the page and translate them into words in your head.

Listening to those books isn’t any easier than reading them.

[On a similar, but side, note, back when I had some money, I looked into buying a “recumbent” bicycle. These are constructed in a way that let you recline while pedaling. You’re still traveling on your own power, and you’re still on two wheels. It’s a bicycle, but it’s not as painful to ride, because all your weight isn’t on a tiny saddle-shaped seat.

But lots of people call the recumbent bikes “toys.” They say that riding one is cheating. Ridiculous.]

5 Responses to I hear ya

  1. BruceS August 3, 2007 at 6:50 pm #

    Audio books aren’t cheating. They’re just an alternate means of reading the same book. Do these whiners complain about people who prefer paperbacks, or large print, or e-books? These differences aren’t large (they’re medium).
    Recumbent bikes are no more toys than safety bikes (the kind you most often see). I ride the latter, but have considered the former. I’ve been told they’re less suited to hills (probably because they’re heavy) and traffic (visibility), but can’t say from experience. My wife and I keep talking about getting a tandem, and one possibility would be to get that rarest of bikes, a recumbent tandem. I’ll let you know if it ever happens.

  2. Hulk August 3, 2007 at 11:55 pm #

    I’m no fan of audio books but I don’t feel that listening to a story is cheating. I do feel that reading a book exercises a different part of the brain than listening to someone tell a story.

    On another note (this has nothing to do with recumbent bikes) I said the oft-used word “oxymoron” at a coffee shop today. The girl behind the counter didn’t know what it meant. Of course, she made me an iced chai and I can’t make one of those.

    My least favorite overused word is “ignorant”. “He’s ignorant.” “That’s ignorant.” I hate it. It’s an awful sounding word. I will never type it again.

  3. Hulk August 4, 2007 at 12:25 am #

    Aha! I see the word “ignorant” in the July 29th post. I approve. I’m surprised. Still, I will never type it again. Again.

    I’ve been trying to learn a new word each morning and then use it in conversation that very day. I have Dictionary.Com’s “Word of the Day” as an iGoogle gadget. A recent word: “brackish”. Good word. Already knew it. I challenge you to use “brackish” in conversation today.

  4. weeklyrob August 4, 2007 at 9:19 am #

    Bruce: I *think* that the bent bikes are supposed to be harder to get up hills because you can’t stand on the pedals, since you’re permanently sitting. But then, others say you can push harder because you can push into the seat.

    I’d love to get one, but they’re expensive and I’m not looking for ways to spend money right now. They are, apparently, looking for me.

    Hulk: The question is, did you use oxymoron to mean a purposeful literary device of putting opposites together (deafening silence)?

    Ignorant is an ugly word, and it is overused. People use it to mean stupid. But there’s no other word that fits so well when you mean, “lacking in knowledge of a particular subject.” I’ll keep typing it.

    And, by God, I WILL use “brackish” today.

    My favorite of all words is, and has been for a long time, callipygian. If there’s a better word out there, I’d like to know.

  5. BruceS August 6, 2007 at 6:52 pm #

    I’ve heard both sides on the ‘bent bit, and buy the latter. Standing on one foot, I can only put my weight into it. Bracing my back, I can apply considerably more force than my weight. I *very* seldom stand on my pedals, though. The point of gears is to keep the torque low, thereby reducing joint stress and improving efficiency.

    I have no problem with “ignorant” when used as directed. I even happily admit to ignorance on a great variety of subjects.

    I had to look up “callipygian”, (OK, I didn’t *have* to, but I chose to) and my paper m-w lacks it. In fact, it shows as misspelled in this window. I am now slightly less ignorant, and slightly more amused.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe without commenting

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes