A few months ago, right here, I told you about my love of audiobooks. Now my listening habits have gone to a whole other level. I listen to nonfiction at work and fiction during my 45-minute commute, and only occasionally do I substitute a book with music. This is a strange moment in my personal evolution, because for a couple of decades I’ve felt that riding in a car without music was like being in a coffin on wheels. Dramatic, yes, but cars have radios for a reason, right?
These days I listen to more music at home, and, being here in Music City, there’s always some sort of awesome (and often free) live show to catch any night of the week. (A free Will Hoge show last Friday, folks. FREE WILL HOGE!) So I’m getting my music fix elsewhere.
I’d been wanting to read more, feeling desperately behind friends who’ve read this and that, but lately, old-fashioned eyeball reading (well, as old-fashioned as an iPad can be, I guess) comes at a premium: I sacrifice sleep, time with my family, time I have to catch up on day-job work at nights or on weekends, happy hours with friends I’ve gone too long without seeing. So the only “reading” I’ve had time for has come in audiobook form, and now I really look forward to choosing a book and pressing play when I get in the car. But damn: audiobooks are expensive. So I joined Audible.com, where the discounts, promotions, and monthly credits are totally worth it. (My most recent find: Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice on sale for $7.95.) In only three weeks, my ears have thumbed through 1200 pages. It’s amazing!
I have never been a quick reader. Never. I am slow and careful, and I get dizzy if my eyes have to zig-zag at lightning speed. It feels like work to me—even though I enjoy it—and it’s tiring. Couple all that with my embarrassingly short attention span, and you’ve got Audible’s dream customer. So I made the leap. Anything involving a bank draft is pretty serious.
Which got me thinking about my newest reading-habit progression…
Because I’m a bit morbid about a lot of things, and, despite being a generally content and cheerful person, I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop, I revisited the question sometimes asked during junior high sleepovers or drunken moments of truth: Would you rather be deaf or blind?
Yikes. For those of us fortunate enough to have enjoyed both these senses all our lives, it’s a tough question, no matter how you slice it. I toggle back and forth. Without my hearing, I couldn’t listen to music! But without eyes I couldn’t take a solitary drive. But if I couldn’t hear, I couldn’t have a conversation with my husband. But no sight means not seeing what my son looks like as he grows. No ears: no birdsongs. No eyes: no movies. And on and on.
I know people are amazing; we adapt. Lots of creatures adapt. But adaptation has a bittersweet quality to it—a mourning process intertwined with a drive to carry on—which I feel daily when I see my blind pug bump into walls and sniff the air to find me in a room. My heart tugs. This is what I don’t want—someone feeling sorry for me, or, even more grave, me losing my independence. I guess that losing sight would have this effect more than losing hearing.
But I do enjoy silence. The problem with losing hearing, however, is that—so I’m told—there’s never silence, but rather a constant ringing that can’t be shut off. I would go insane. I am highly sensitive to sound, so the thought of constant sound with no volume control or off switch sounds terrifying to me.
So can I just limit my morbid question to reading? (Yes, I may. It’s more manageable that way.) Going on reading alone—if I could only choose either hearing or sight for taking in a text—my ears have trumped my eyes in reading usefulness. There would be no perusing stupid sites on the Internet, and that would totally suck, and I’d have to have my husband read me the headlines on the Daily Mail (hey, now—no judging), but I’m going with ears. I’d be super-happy if more books came in audio form, sure, but there are plenty to keep me happy for a long time. And my husband swears by the Kindle robot-voice that can read any e-book (I’m a little more hesitant about robot-voices), so there’s always that. Now that I’m 1,200 pages more enlightened, I feel like a kid who’s just put on prescription lenses for the first time.
And, as our literary selections this week will show you, eyes can get you into way more trouble than ears can.
Kevin Spaide’s story, “Serious Shit,” captures a domestic couple in bed in the morning and it’s a clinic on dialogue. They notice someone outside, possibly looking in at them, and the subject curlicues through grand themes and trivia, naturally, with the couple’s familiarity with each other charming and real. If I were a teacher at Atticus University I’d shelve “Hills Like White Elephants” and start with this one right here.
William Pendergast’s flash, “I Thought to Myself: Why Are Fridays Always Like This?” captures the moment when the petite girlfriend of the point-of-view character abruptly interrupts his wandering eye, a surprise to him, but not us. This is Pendergast’s first flash, so here’s hoping an Atticus nod encourages him to write more.
Bernadette Geyer’s poem, “The Space She Leaves,” is a meditation / reaction / response to the photo “The Tuileries Gardens, 1980” by André Kertész. I’m gonna put my fancy advanced English degree to use and tell you that this type of poem is called ekphrasis, like John Keats’s “Ode to a Grecian Urn,” which is a pretty good poem made less good by the experience of being forced to read it in high school. Geyer’s poem those kids would get, I think: when a moment is frozen and for that quiet moment we are caught in between.
Photo by Iaia Ross on Flickr