Category Archives: Reading by Ear

Reading by Ear is a series of articles by librarian Francisca Goldsmith discussing audiobooks as a medium through which contemporary readers are invited to explore literary culture, performance arts, and multimodal literacy capacity building. In her thought-provoking, scholarly yet accessible writing, Francisca addresses why audiobook listening expands, rather than derails, our access to literature and the written word. She also takes on the issue of prescribing audiobooks as a ‘print reading’ support versus listening to audiobooks as a way to build information and aesthetic experiences and critical thinking about auditory experiences in their own right.

Francisca has been working in libraries for many years. Her professional background includes services and collections for teens in public and school libraries, for New Americans, and providing reference services and managing collections for adults and teens in public and academic libraries. She has held positions in Collection Management and in Public Services in libraries in the US and Canada. Since 2000, she has provided training through a variety of public and private agencies for library staff. The author of six professional books and contributor to several more, she now works with the Audio Publishers Association’s Sound Learning literacy project and AudioFile Magazine, in addition to other clients.

When Audio Leads

On the heels of the London Book Fair’s attention to audiobooks this year, a story in yesterday’s Entertainment section of BBC News goes more deeply into the medium as its own literary form. Four salient points need attention by librarians, vendors, teachers, and readers regarding how audio-format reading addresses more than just an option for busy consumers:

  1. Audiobook production, as a predetermined publication end, can give authors an opportunity to explore and expose specific narrative styles. Poet and novelist Sophie Hannah points up her desire to make specific use of dialog, when her writing is to be recorded in audio. Knowing that the ultimate publication of a story will be for the ear, rather than the eye, can lead to choices of words and phrasings with specifically auditory power and character and relationship building might take an alternate course, through dialog, than when such developmental passages are intended to be presented as text.
  2. Creating literature for audio sharing takes the role of storyteller back to the roots of literature itself. Attending to how a narrative sounds aloud echoes the role played by epic poets in making the narrative’s sound compelling enough to follow, remember, and revisit.
  3. Reading with one’s ears requires mental attention, just as reading with one’s eyes does. To use audiobooks as background noise defeats the whole purpose of playing them.
  4. And, in a point worth considerable examination and corresponding pilot project study, author and former teacher
    Joanne Harris

    Joanne Harris suggests that audiobooks may offer specific appeal to boys who have been trained that reading is a passive activity.

While the business end of the BBC article is interesting, in that there seems to be increasing harmony between styles of audiobook recording and listening in the UK and the US, these four points go much further than marketing. Each one offers insights for consideration in library programming, classrooms, and practice by both authors and narrators.

 

A Poem’s Proof of Aural Power

WEST MOUNTAIN EPILOGUE A READING BY JAY PARINI FROM HIS NEW AND COLLECTED POEMS: 1975-2015 by Jay Parini | Read by Jay Parini Beacon Press | Unabridged Selections, Beacon Press

Thanks to both document digitization and audio recording, we can engage both eyes and ears in extending the life of the oldest English language poem extant. The British Library’s digitization of an early manuscript copy of Beowulf (which, of course, is an epic predating its inscription) is cataloged to include its physical properties as well as presented in full color(s) on screen. As a thousand-year-old document, it looks admirable and the description of its fiber content also provides suggestions of both scent and touch sensations.

Arthur Bahr, MIT Old English assistant professor, reads the first 12 lines in Beowulf’s original here. As this was recorded on video, with the camera directed at Bahr, the disconnect between the aural and visual presentation of a t-shirted and most definitely 21st century man serves to demonstrate how the power of listening alone can allow the reader to be more deeply absorbed than when they are confronted by sight as well as sound. Humans, at the norm, depend on eyesight as our primary means of information gathering. However, when we deploy our eyes while trying to listen, we are, indeed, less likely to hear all that we can when we stop looking.

ELECTRIC ARCHES by Eve L. Ewing | Read by Eve L. Ewing Haymarket Books | Unabridged, Haymarket Books

While many Westerners accompany any listening they do with visual stimulus (either from the same source, as in video, or through multitasking), the true power of what we can hear–and feel and think based on hearing alone–can be revealed when we don’t look. Pull up some poetry  and spend an hour listening with your eyes closed. The link immediately above offers reviews of possibilities ranging from classic to contemporary, collections of verse and novels in verse. Whatever you choose, let your ears have your full attention.

Sound Learning Easier to Search

The Audio Publishers Association’s literacy promotion initiative, Sound Learning APA, has had its online presence altered just enough to make a big difference for users seeking audio literacy, and multimodal literacy content. The site includes research on listening and literacy, classroom-appropriate sample activities, and—now more evident than previously—lists of high quality titles sorted by listener interest age.

The lists are complete with annotations, sound clips, and covers. The newest list, Early Childhood audiobook suggestions, includes an essay on the pre-literacy skills audiobooks support and the list itself is subdivided for easy use by preschool teachers: there are titles by theme (e.g., music and rhyme, food, dinosaurs) each followed with activities using them with a group of under-five’s. As with the grade-level lists and the list for those who are ready for adult books, this one is deep as well as broad, with more than half a dozen thematic groups, each offering about four different titles. The range of publishers is also broad, appropriate to the site’s providers which is the audiobook trade group’s association.

The Observant Voice

‘If I’m a storyteller it’s because I listen’ –John Berger [Interview with Kate Kellaway for the Guardian, 30 October 2016]

Critic, author, and aesthetic theoretician John Berger wrote significantly about the primacy and impact of visual experience in The Ways of Seeing close to 50 years ago, before educated access to the world of ideas moved to us through images as much as through words. This text continues to provide readers with better understanding of how the act of seeing affects the viewer as well as them.

Years later (2011), Berger read aloud his essay on imprisonment with its opening statement on our attachment to hearing words. (The essay was published in Guernica Magazine, informs15 July 2011). Hearing him read it aloud in 2018 seems remarkable: his observations on walls built of material and erected on the bases of class, cultural, and political means resonate now with a prescience that would be frightening were Berger not already recognized as brilliant and capable of extrapolating from the local observation to the human condition with more skill than either personal or cultural prejudice.

Available for free listening through the Open Culture portal, here are 33 minutes for all to hear now. Berger’s somewhat idiosyncratic pronunciations do not intrude on the experience of hearing him directly and his pacing supports comprehensive listening, every phrase and statement given its full weight aloud and time to resonate within the hearing.

Literary Nobel Laureates Aloud

Bob Dylan’s unwillingness to collect his Nobel Prize for Literature, in 2016, served as a popular reminder that this accolade (and there are others with similar rules) requires its recipient to speak up publicly when the award ceremony occurs. The Nobel Prize Organization provides snippets of some of the responding speeches. However, some great authors, as we know, are magnificent when writing and less so when speaking. A snippet serves these writers well because only the most compelling aspect of their speech need be archived.

How the Literary Laureate crafts the acceptance speech, and the content they choose to present varies, of course. Some apparently stay within the mode of shock and awe at the celebration of their work, while others use the global public square of the speech to make statements about events beyond the matter of literature and the winning of the grand prize at hand. John Steinbeck’s snippet, for example, gives us his embodied voice of a man who is expressing gratitude without the incisiveness of his writing voice. Austrian playwright and novelist Elfriede Jelinek, on the other hand, whose speech had to be recorded for presentation as she did not have the physical ability to attend, demonstrates the flow of her words as they are meant to be heard even when she places them in actors’ mouths.

And some provide highly literary and yet skillfully performed responses to the award that echo the award’s purpose and meaning: they give back—to all of us—in the spirit of adding to the world body of story and cultural history. Kazuo Ishiguro, the most recent Literature Nobel Laureate, exemplifies the third type, his 45-minute speech accessible to a wide variety of listeners, whether educated, academic, or even teenaged, while also adding to the literary body of the world a tiny gem of well-chosen, skillfully constructed images built entirely of the blending of words with voice. While a video with Ishiguro’s complete speech is available on the Nobel Prize Organization site, the words and the voice are the essentials here. Penguin Random House Audiobooks has it for sale as such; every library needs to make it accessible to its community.

 

 

Light, Sound, and the Speed of the Mind

Reading philosophy, including its essential byway of political theory, requires a kind of patience that demands readers monitor their own capacity as much as the author’s path making. As an undergraduate, I learned that some philosophical texts were best consumed if I read them aloud, a discovery that certainly helped me in graduate school while horrifying some of my fellow students there.

Across most of adulthood, however, my reading of both classical and contemporary philosophy texts has been silently tracked with my eyes. Of course, the going is more slow than when my eyes track murder mysteries in print or even works about biology, behavioral psychology, or history. A rubric of good journalism is its transparency so reading the news happens, for me, at something akin to the speed of light.

However, recent audiobook publishing of mid- and late-twentieth century Western philosophy texts has given me the opportunity to discover—and this time with expert narrators in the driver’s seat—that ears, rather than eyes, are the preferred conduit for taking in sentences in which a variety of dependent clauses, and their order, require careful tracking. Discovering the variety of interpretative performance styles audiobook narrators are bringing to philosophical texts has also led to an eye-opening time. Some present the text in almost casual tones, pacing the reading as though they were chatting with the audience, or performing a literary novel in which word choice and phrasing counts but the emotional inflections do as well. Others assume a kind of lecture pacing, with halts as though they themselves are considering the passage just presented, or rushing ahead when the text doesn’t seem to serve a purpose other than as a bridge to their own next a-ha moment.

One very recent listen brought a variety of insights about differences in eye-reading and ear-reading, however. Hannah Arendt’s 1963 On Revolution is narrated by the Audio Publishers Association’s 2017 Best Female Narrator, Tavia Gilbert, whose voice work can be heard in a variety of genres from science fiction to thriller to romance, and audiobooks for very young listeners, reads this one at a speed that frightened me for all of the first two minutes—and then I realized that she had accurately tapped Arendt’s own speed of thought rather than her speaking pace (which, in her native German, can be heard here). Famous for her long sentences (which her friend author Mary McCarthy would prune ahead of final editing), Arendt required them in order to crystalize the prism of any one of her speculations, assertions, or analyses. And Gilbert, for her part, re-animates that speedy thought process by delivering aloud sentences that might take the eye-reader two or three goes to absorb.

This new spate of audiobook publishing is most welcome, as long as it hews to the high standard of interpreting the author’s expressive pace. Gilbert has set the mark.

Women’s Voices

International Women’s Day is celebrated this week so if you’re seeking some good options for tuning in to women of whom you’ve heard named and read with your eyes, take the opportunity to hear them in their own voices.

Poet Gertrude Stein was recorded reading her 1922 poem Idem the Same: A Valentine for Sherwood Anderson,in 1935 and preserved by the University of Pennsylvania audio archives. Already noted by then as a woman who was not treading the patriarchal path her gender was assigned, Stein’s voice is expectedly strong and dramatic.

Eudora Welty can be heard reading her 1941 short story Why I Live at the PO in a a recording mounted on YouTube that should be slowed to .75 speed in order to sound natural. The story itself reflects both Welty’s acute observation powers regarding social dynamics between and among women as well as the short story craft at its best. Flannery O’Connor read her short story A Good Man Is Hard to Find at Vanderbilt University, in 1959, and hearing it in her drawl gives it authentic body as well as soul. Recorded half a dozen years after it was first published, and five years before the young author’s death, this mid-century dark comedy is a fitting memorial to its author as well as a window on a particular aspect of gender in the time and place it’s set.

Maya Angelou’s 1978 poem And Still I Rise can be heard in her voice, and with her introduction, on a recording published by one of her students on YouTube in 2007. Here a woman’s viewpoint and reading are presented as universal as well as particular. In 1991, Adrienne Rich turned our attention to nature as a necessity in a time of turmoil that threatens life as well as social parity. You can hear her read What Kind of Times Are These?” in 2000, recorded at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival.

The next step would be to find the woman who speaks of women now. You might ask the next woman you meet for a recommendation of the voice you need to hear next. Better, ask the next three women and follow up every lead they offer.

 

 

 

 

 

The Men behind the Words

In 1974, a book by Theodore Rosengarten was published and went on to the win the National Book Award for Contemporary Affairs (a category that later became “Nonfiction”). The work itself was an oral history of a man identified as Nate Shaw (Ned Cobb), a sharecropper in Alabama who stood up against sheriffs who had come to take away a fellow sharecropper’s property. In 2000, Sean Crisden read Rosengarten’s account of Shaw’s words and recollections in the audiobook format of All God’s Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw.

In both print and audio formats, the work has received wide critical praise, and the man underneath the writing and then the performance of the written—Nate Shaw/Ned Cobb—remains alive through these interventions of other men’s voices. In effect, the fact of Nate Shaw can become fixed because his unscripted speaking was heard, recorded in written text, and now heard again through the oral performance of an informed actor. Instead of these interventions diluting the immediate and personal accounting of Mr. Shaw, they serve to extend the reach, and the permanence, of his witnessing to history.

And that, it seems, stands as a powerful demonstration of the community needed to make any one person’s experiences alive for others: the speaker, the listener, and the recorder, all of whom make possible that there be an audience beyond the immediate and singularly small original one.

Listen to the Heirs

Emma Gonzalez gave a speech on Friday that provided direction and articulation to passions wrought in a forge of her elders’ moral lassitude. The capacity of teenaged youth to step up and out may swell from the same idealistic bravado as generals have relied upon to exploit adolescent troops from time immemorial. However, where generals outlaw independent thought—and punish outspoken dissent from state-supporting action—teenagers who lead with word and action have no interest in maintaining the power of the state as intrinsic and instead carry a banner of a higher purpose: the future that that state works to deny them, not as individuals, but as collective humanity.

The teenaged leaders of Parkland, Florida, join an honorable—and sometimes brilliantly successful—tradition of international youth whose moral mettle has used the power of crafted speech with elegantly planned action to change the direction of historic oppression and the threat of annihilation the generals’ generation holds over their heirs.

President Trump is scheduled to attend a “listening session” later this week regarding gun control. At this point, it’s difficult to imagine that that audience member has the capacity to listen, to hear, to consider any voice more fully than his own. However, teens have the drive and the capacity to lead through the power of speech, and the will to reach every open ear.

Load Up the Links to Forthcoming Audiobook Kudos

This week, the finalists in each category of the Audie Awards (the “Oscars of audiobook publishing”) are announced. Less than a week later, ALA’s Reference & User Services Association’s CODES section releases its annual Listen List during ALA Midwinter, while the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) publishes its Notable Children’s Recordings list, the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) releases its Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults list, and those two ALA sections together announce the annual Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production. So today would be a good time to get all your links updated to these various best audiobooks (and probably a good time to clear out your online storage of audiobook files of titles you’ve decided you don’t need to keep).

Here’s where to get each of these advisories for the aurally omnivorous:

The 2018 Audies finalist slates, in more than two dozen categories (some genre, some performance style, some performer gender), are revealed via social media all day Tuesday, 6 February, and then find a website home at theaudies.com.

The Listen List, formally announced on Sunday, 11 February, will then be posted online at https://www.rusaupdate.org/awards/the-listen-list/

 Announcement of the Odyssey Award (including any Honor titles in addition the winner) is part of the Youth Media Awards event slated for 8 am Monday, 12 February, in Denver. The event is live streamed and then the announced winner(s) are listed on the Odyssey Award homepage.

ALA press releases will carry the 2018 Notable Children’s Recordings and Amazing Audiobooks lists. Then each of them can be found on a stable web page, Notable Children’s Recordings at http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/notalists/ncr and Amazing Audiobooks at http://www.ala.org/yalsa/amazing-audiobooks – current Each of these lists runs to over a dozen titles.

If ever you needed an idea of what audiobook to try next, this would be your month for abundant advice!

Listening as an Act of Recognizing Humanity

Wax cylinder recording materials – 1965

Since the invention of the most rudimentary of sound-capturing technology coincided with European descendent explorations of geography annexed through hostile acts of imperialism, the opportunity to hear dying languages remains with us. Taking time to listen to such recordings can serve as a respectful acknowledgment of past violences which stripped the world of certain human and spiritual potentials in service to domination by others.

The Doug Ellis Audio Collection provides nearly instant access online to stories, memories, and historic accounts recorded during the mid-20th century in Cree communities of Ontario. The sound quality is good and contextual remarks both in English-speaking voice and archive notes, along with good searching capability on the site, make this a starting point with almost no technical threshold. John Wynne’s account of “How Ghost River Got its Name” is itself one of interracial violence between First Peoples.

Like animal species, human linguistic diversity is open to both threat of endangerment and endangerment, or loss, itself. To be considered endangered, a language has fallen to such disuse by its native speakers that they no longer incorporate it fully into daily life, passing it between generations. Seeking archival recordings made when such languages were threatened—and thus the subject of non-native, native, or both teachers and record keepers—may provide guidance for the future: how can we maintain an awareness that every language is an expression of humanity that is both shared and privileged.

Audiobooks for Building the Most Essential Communication Skill

Audiobooks have long been used in English-speaking countries to support new language acquisition for immigrant students. Their use in English language teaching in places outside these countries is beginning to take hold, now that digitally available audiobooks allow for more accessibility in secondary and university learning situations.

This month The Journal of Language Teaching and Research has published a new and compelling study of the benefits of “Using Audiobooks for Developing Listening Comprehension among Saudi EFL Preparatory Year Students” (Manal Mohamed Khodary Mohamed, Suez Canal University). The literature review noted in its opening paragraph speaks directly to the role of listening skills in communication success:

Listening is considered the most important language skill for achieving effective communication and good academic achievement among learners. It is a highly integrative skill because it is generally the first skill which learners develop (Oxford, 1993; Vandergrift, 1999). It has been emphasized as an essential component in the Second Language Acquisition (SLA) process (Vandergrift, 2003). It has a great role in the construction of language abilities of a Foreign Language (FL) learner (Rost, 2002). It has acknowledged a great importance in FL classrooms (Richards & Renandya, 2002; Rahimi, 2012). The role and importance of listening in SLA exceeds acquiring meaning from sounds because it does not only mean recognizing the sounds but it also involves detecting, conveying and comprehending the information and it allows comprehending the world and creating social relationships among humans (White, 2006). In spite of the importance of listening, it did not get concern in language teaching for many years (Richards & Renandya, 2002; Nation & Newton, 2009). It was the least understood and the most overlooked of the four skills (Nation & Newton, 2009; Wilson, 2008). Moreover, listening is the most difficult task for learners when they begin to learn a FL and it is the most challenging skill to be developed (Berne, 2004; Vandergrift, 2007).

In addition, then, to the experimental design, methodology of analyzing its results, and the reported results, this paper offers a concise introduction to the value of aural competency and how it can be developed through audiobook listening.

In Celebration of a Compelling Speaker

On 19 July 1962 Martin Luther King Jr became the first African American to speak at the National Press Club. His post-lunch remarks were delivered days after he’d been convicted of participating in a peaceful protest against  segregation in his home state of Georgia.

The Press Club rediscovered tapes of the speech and made them available online in very recent years. They can be downloaded in MP3 format and a transcript s, of course, included.

Build Listening Awareness with Challenges

Omnivorous readers with competitive bones in their bodies (if only to seek a personal best), and librarians and teachers seeking some self-managed professional development, look to reading challenges to stimulate self-accomplishment. Biblioblogs of all sorts publish them to ring in the new year, and the range on offer includes some better suited to relatively neophyte casual readers to those for word warriors. A benefit to many all along this spectrum is the sense of community joining a challenge can bring: who else has taken the challenge? How’s it working out for them? Is there someone among them who can offer support when the reading gets dull? Is there a well-matched super-reader to provide extra motivation for the high-achieving competitor?

A number of these challenges suggest participants take the occasional “challenge” of trying an audiobook. And there are a few audiobook-specific challenges on offer as well. The Caffeinated Reviewer has a well developed one that offers various intensity levels as well as the opportunity to find a listening buddy or buddies. This is a high quality, no-fee skill-building opportunity that can appeal to readers’ advisors, audiobook collection selectors and developers, language arts teachers, and families.

If joining a group doesn’t appeal, this audiobook listening challenge—and many others—can be undertaken independently. All you need is a good supply of audiobooks (library, OpenCulture, anything but piracy, please), listening advice and recommendations, and a will to listen more, and more deeply.

End of the Year Listening

This week we take a half-step east of audiobooks per se to listen to recordings of live performances by a poet and a comedian. Both expressive forms are intended for auditory consumption and, in these selected cases, offer a shot of wry retrospective to go with current day events.

First up, Allen Ginsberg—Beat poet, comfortable performance artist, and more truthsayer than the provocateur he was accused of being—reads America. From atom bomb talk to TIME Magazine obsessing, this over-60-year-old invocation of the United States as hazard zone currently requires no historical explanation even to those a quarter of the poem’s age.

George Carlin’s “Filthy Words” routine, here as recorded in “Occupation Foole,” recorded in 1973, tracks the words involved in what became a First Amendment case arising when Carlin was arrested the previous year for speaking seven particular words aloud to an audience during his comedy performance. Last week’s news about a demand made of the Centers for Disease Control by Executive Office policy analysts included a different set of words, and yet the number of them—seven—puts a nearly biblical twist on US government suppression of vocabulary choices.

Among the delights of listening to such recordings is hearing the speaker’s actual delivery. This is a far cry from being left to read what a student wrote down as he heard Plato speak. We hear the places that matter to the speaker, even under the audience’s responding laughter. The leverage of direct access to intonation and pacing proves to be more than extra; in these two cases, the speakers’ good humor can give us some hope in light-heartedness itself.

AudioFile Magazine Names Best Nonfiction & Culture Audiobooks 2017

This is the season when “best” lists bloom like gardens in spring and understanding who declares a publication as best of the year is the first step to deciding why that declaration deserves what amount of attention. Since AudioFile Magazine is the only publication that has been reviewing audiobooks only, and for 25 years, the accumulated experiences of their editors and reviewers puts them in the lead for a demonstrated capacity to judge the best from a year’s output of new audiobooks. AudioFile’s reviews concern themselves with the specifically audio format of the presentation: narration quality, suitability of the written work to audio performance, and directional and engineering attention during the publication process.

This year’s list of more than 100 best audiobooks is divided into topical areas, with Nonfiction and Culture audiobooks accounting for 11 titles on the full list. From the mathematical and molecular delights in the history of CAESAR’S LAST BREATH, written by Sam Kean and read by Ben Sullivan, through the all-the-rage Danish cosy movement discussed in THE LITTLE BOOK OF HYGGE, written and read by Meik Wiking, to the fascination with language shared in WORD BY WORD, written and read by Kory Stamper, this category of Best Audiobooks offers delight for the omnivorous autodidact as well as for listeners seeking comfort or advice. There’s comedy in Paula Poundstone reading her own THE TOTALLY UNSCIENTIFIC STUDY OF THE SEARCH FOR HUMAN HAPPINESS. Contemproary racial bias in policing is examined in journalist Matt Taibbi’s I CAN’T BREATHE, read by Dominic Hoffman. Personal and professional development take center stage in OWN IT by Sallie Krawcheck, read by Ellen Archer, and FINISH written and read by Jon Acuff. Continue reading AudioFile Magazine Names Best Nonfiction & Culture Audiobooks 2017

#GivingThanks for Digital Audiobooks

In the opening scene of the new and Sacramento-hatred-drenched movie Lady Bird, the title character and her mother are listening to the closing 30 seconds or so of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath while driving on an August hot highway. They each shed a tear as the audiobook ends and then teenaged Lady Bird pops the cassette—the final of about 20—from the car player and back into its rigid, made-to-crack plastic shell. It’s 2002 and this is how most listeners handle audiobooks. Continue reading #GivingThanks for Digital Audiobooks

Listening to Speak Well

November 19th marked the 154th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln delivering his Gettysburg Address, an event that, of course, was not recorded by any mechanical means. However, because of its brevity, powerful prosody, and stark imagery, it continues to live not just as a document but also as script for oral performance.

The flip side of listening to read is listening to learn how to speak, and listening to stellar deliveries of careful language choices to learn to speak well, compellingly, and clearly in terms of conceptual communication. Without practiced listening skills, speakers lag in oral communication skills, a situation that can lead to frustration, alienation, and exclusion from power.

While the writing of Presidential speeches has evolved over time to comport more popular styles of grammar, phrasing and word choices, how we experience them has also changed. We tend to read them in full and listen to only moments of the whole. Often that listening, truncated as it is, also comes via video and thus invites visual appraisal of postures, faces, and other details beyond the spoken words. Except for those who elect to join forensics teams or involve themselves in school drama departments, young students now rarely, and most never, have the opportunity to experience delivering speeches or master communication intended to be heard (beyond music).

After millennia of human ideas and ideals being shaped aloud, are we now in the Age of Unspeaking?

StoryCorps and the Great Thanksgiving Listen

Besides engaging with what authors and performers have created through audiobooks, the sound of storytelling extends to creating and listening to family stories, neighborhood stories, captured memories of unwritten, and otherwise unscripted, events, and conversations. The work of StoryCorps addresses this by providing both structure for and preservation of such recordings. Recordings made in StoryCorps booths, which pop up around the country on well publicized schedules, are accepted by the Library of Congress as part of the American archives of cultural and popular history. StoryCorps has won a variety of humanities distinctions, including the Peabody Award (2007).

For several years, StoryCorps has been promoting The Great Thanksgiving Listen, a guided opportunity for those gathered with multiple generations to celebrate the holiday. With the goal of creating “a culture of listening,” this effort points directly to the power of listening in communication, intergenerational honor, and understanding. Directions are specific, simple to follow, and require virtually nothing to attain satisfying results. The event is suggested for families, classes of all ages, and neighborhood gathering places. Continue reading StoryCorps and the Great Thanksgiving Listen

Literary Awards Season Disambiguates Writing from Performing

This is the high season for literary award announcements, from the international Nobel Laureate to the Mystery Writers of America’s Anthony Awards. In between come plaudits for the best writing in everything from investigative journalism to lifetime achievement in military literature. Many such award winners have had previous titles recorded as audiobooks; some have the winning title already available in audio format; a few will remain unrecorded, at least in the foreseeable future.

Does a satisfying, literary award-winning book automatically translate into a great listen? This is like asking whether a fantastic cake recipe can be made into delightful cookies. Maybe. Sometimes. It depends on factors that have nothing to do with the print work—the quality of the narrators’ performance, sound engineering care—and a few that do, in fact, connect to what the book is, how the author treats both language and prosody, and whether the content makes sense aloud. Continue reading Literary Awards Season Disambiguates Writing from Performing