My love/hate relationship with audiobooks

I love them.

I love them not.

I love them.

I love them not.

Eh…I can take take or leave them.

This is my relationship with audiobooks. This past week, I’ve been taking them, or at least one of them, like medicine.

The previous week, Jenny Lawson’s book, Broken, came in from on hold in ebook from the Free Library of Philadelphia. When I finally had a chance to read it on Monday, I suddenly realized that I wanted to listen to on audiobook…or, to be more accurate, I didn’t want to have to read it to my wife, which I had started to do because it was so funny. So I got my umpteenth Audible trial so we could listen to Jenny tell her own story.

As I type this first draft, we are listening to her and it’s good, not always funny like this chapter, which is a letter to her insurance company. But it’s all good, in its own way, if for nothing but her honesty, which can be both hilarious and heartbreaking, sometimes all at the same time.

Jenny’s memoir isn’t the first “humor” book that I’ve chosen to listen to, and enjoyed. I think among my first audiobooks were by comedians, specifically comediennes:

  • Bossypants by Tina Fey.
  • Yes, Please by Amy Poehler.

My first audiobook, at least as an adult, probably wasn’t technically a book but a radio drama from the BBC of The Lord of the Rings, most of which we listened to on a trip to North Carolina years ago.

My first proper introduction to audiobooks came via Jennifer of the then blog The Literary Housewife. It was a group listen of James Bond books as read by Simon Vance, which was one of her favorite narrators. I still like Vance, and own one narrated by him: A Tale of Two Cities and another in which he is a participant of a group read: Dune. As they both are long, I have yet to get to them. Before you suggest that I listen to them on my commute to work, I’ll let you know my commute is five minutes. That said, we do have a longer car trip mid-month so maybe we’ll listen to one or the other on the way to and from.

Last year, I did listen to Vance’s narration of part of The Complete Sherlock Holmes, while walking around our neighborhood. During walks last year, I also listened to a public radio drama based on A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr. It was well done, but as it was apocalyptic science fiction, in hindsight, it wasn’t the best series to listen to at the start of a pandemic (in April and May last year).

Oh, I almost forgot but would be negligent if I didn’t mention that I also listened to The Poet X as read by the author Elizabeth Acevedo. It was great.

I already know some of you listen to audiobooks and love them and you’ll try to convince me to listen to audiobooks every day or at least on weekends. While I appreciate the thought, I’m not usually good at sitting down and listening to someone read to me for hours or even listening while doing something. However, I will ask all of you, if you read audiobooks, what are the one or two that I need to put on my bucket list to listen to as I do once or twice a year? If you don’t listen to audiobooks, why not? Maybe like me, you don’t have a long commute or a long attention span. Share your thoughts in the comments.

Readathon Revised

So…

…those plans I had yesterday for today’s readathon?

Um, yeah, about that.

I’m revising the stack to be more realistic than it was and not as heavy in terms of pages, although you might think that the subject matter is heavy with murder at the center of all three of my choices. They’re really not, but are comfort reads, of a kind for me and just what I need today. Here is the revised stack:

  • The Potter’s Field, the 13th in the Inspector Montalbano series, by Andrea Camilleri
  • Rogue Protocol, the third in the Murderbot series, by Martha Wells
  • Exit Strategy, the fourth in the Murderbot series, also by Wells.

As I’m writing this at about 9 a.m., I still have to get breakfast, and I am adding two other components to my own readathon with meditation and journaling (therapeutic and much needed after a week full of…well, everything), realistically I probably won’t be getting started until at least noon. The plan from there is to read as much as I can until at least midnight, mixed with the meditation and journaling. It won’t be 12 hours of reading, but I’ll read what I can. If I finish these three (doubtful, even though they’re short), I do have a backup or two in the wings. We’ll see if it/they are needed.

Are you participating in today’s readathon? If so, what are you reading? If not, what are you reading lately anyway?

To readathon and chill out

This weekend, I’m chilling both Saturday and Sunday, first Saturday for much of the day with Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon and then Sunday afternoon in The Chill Out Tent.

If you are unfamiliar with Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon, here’s a description from the readathon blog:

For 24 hours, we read books, post to our blogs, Twitters, Instagrams, Litsy, Facebook, Goodreads and MORE about our reading, and visit other readers’ homes online. We also participate in mini-challenges throughout the day. It happens twice a year, in April and in October.

In the graphic above are what I have selected to read and, in two cases, what I probably will start but not finish on Saturday. They are:

  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • The Potter’s Field, the 13th in the Inspector Montalbano series, by Andrea Camilleri
  • The Perseverance by Raymond’s Antrobus, and
  • The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor.

The two that I’ll probably start but not finish are the Dickens and the O’Connor. I am more likely to finish the short mystery (by Camilleri) and the book of poems (by Antrobus).

I’ve been making my way slowly through the Inspector Montalbano series this year, and I borrowed the book of poetry recently with a few other books of poetry from the Free Library of Philadelphia. I own the O’Connor, which I have read through back in college when I had a class on Southern writers that included her and William Faulkner. And the Dickens, I borrowed via Prime Reading, which also includes audio from Simon Vance if I want to listen to it.

I plan to post updates periodically on my Instagram and every six hours here on the blog. So join me in my journey, if you want.

Then on Sunday, I’ll be kicking my feet back again to chill with chill music with the 13th edition of The Chill Out Tent, starting at 12:45 p.m. where I am, and 5:45 p.m. in England.

Here’s the lineup:

For further explanation, visit here.

With both events, I plan to keep to myself for the most part, yes, partially because I am antisocial (to a degree anyway) but also because I need to escape this weekend. Without going into details, it’s been a slightly rough ride the last couple of weeks and, to mix metaphors slightly, I need some smooth sailing time.

Together in a Sudden Strangeness

Author’s note: You might have to adjust the font or screen orientation to landscape mode for line breaks in the poems to be viewed as the poets intended them to be read.

This past weekend, I read Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic, edited by Alice Quinn. The collection was edited and compiled by Quinn, onetime New Yorker poetry editor and recent former director of the Poetry Society of America. According to a synopsis of the book, she “reached out to poets across the country to see if, and what, they were writing under quarantine.” The collection was published in June of last year.

Initially last week, because of some personal “stuff” going on, I thought I might not want to read it right now. However, last Friday, I “tested the waters,” so to speak, and liked what I read, so Saturday and Sunday, I read the rest. Out of 107 poems, about a dozen really stuck with me, most of which were short like this one by Cornealius Eady:

Corona Diary

These days, you want the poem to be
A mask, soft veil between what floats
Invisible, but known in the air.
You’ve just read that there’s a singer
You love who might be breathing their last,
And wish the poem could travel,
Unintrusive, as poems do from
The page to the brain, a fan’s medicine.
Those of us who are lucky enough
To stay indoors with a salary count the days
By press conference. For others, there is
Always the dog and the park, the park
And the dog. A relative calls; how you doin’?
(Are you a ghost?) The buds emerge, on time,
For their brief duty. The poem longs to be a filter, but
In floats Spring’s insistence. We wait.

Or this one by Susan Kinsolving:

My Heart Cannot Accept It All

Forgive yourself for thinking small
for cooking soups, ignoring blight.
The mind cannot contain it all

despite intent and wherewithal;
it’s little stuff that brings delight:
a book, a drink. Keeping thinking small.

A bubble bath? An odd phone call?
(Resisting all those gigabytes!)
Your mind will not embrace it all.

Quarantine is one long haul
as days grow long, so do the nights.
Forgive yourself for thinking small:

popcorn, TV, more alcohol?
There’s no need to be contrite.
My mind cannot believe it all,

My heart cannot accept it all.

And this one by Dean Rader:

Meditation on Transmission

The map on my
tv reddens the
way a wound
might spread
across skin,
here, the earth’s
blue body brutally
infected, its slim
shape shrunken
somehow huddled,
like a child waiting
to be picked up,
held, carried to its
bed and sung to sleep,
in its dreams, death
comes dressed as a
doorknob, a handle
on a bus, a button,
a bowl of nuts,
the sun-stroked
sky, a whisper, a kiss,
and it says breath
of my breath, and it
says take me inside
you, and it says,
teach me to multiply,
and the earth
says, Look, I am
living, and the
earth says, holocene
and the earth
says, if something
isn’t burning, it is
incubating, and
the waters do
not part, and
the sun does
not slide into
its black box,
and the stars
do not switch
off their light,
the rain does
not ask the
ocean for
water and yet
above a
chorus of
clouds bristles
with birds about
their work
reminding
not everything
moving through
the air destroys.

Two others really struck a chord with me because of their subject matter: the Black Lives Matter movement and anti-Asian American sentiment and outright hatred and violence that has arisen because of the coronavirus.

The first is by Claudia Rankine.

Weather

On a scrap of paper in the archive is written
I have forgotten my umbrella. Turns out
in a pandemic everyone, not just the philosopher,
is without. We scramble in the drought of information
held back by inside traders. Drop by drop. Face
covering? No, yes. Social distancing? Six feet
under for underlying conditions. Black.
Just us and the blues kneeling on a neck
with the full weight of a man in blue.
Eight minutes and forty-six seconds.
In extremis, I can’t breathe gives way
to asphyxiation, to giving up this world,
and then mama, called to, a call
to protest, fire, glass, say their names, say
their names, white silence equals violence,
the violence of again, a militarized police
force teargassing, bullets ricochet, and civil
unrest taking it, burning it down. Whatever
contracts keep us social compel us now
to disorder the disorder. Peace. We’re out
to repair the future. There’s an umbrella
by the door, not for yesterday but for the weather
that’s here. I say weather but I mean
a form of governing that deals out death
and names it living. I say weather but I mean
a November that won’t be held off. This time
nothing, no one forgotten. We are here for the storm
that’s storming because what’s taken matters.

The second is by Sally Wen Mao, which I’m including from an Instgram post to attempt to keep the line breaks as they were written:

I did see some reviews online that said they thought they didn’t include enough on the Black Lives Matters protests last summer. However, the book was published in June of last year before a lot of the protests. I thought overall, it was still a good collection that captured the isolation and surreality that I think most of us probably felt last year. For that reason alone, I’d highly recommend it.