Tuesday, August 6, 2013

In Her Own Voice

What is it about actually hearing an author read something he or she has written that so intrigues us?  Why are we so fascinated when we listen to an audio recording of James Joyce reading from Dubliners or T.S. Eliot reciting his poetry?  Undeniably we are drawn to these recordings because of the stature of the reader.  These guys are rock stars in the literary world!  However, I think that hearing an author read a work of fiction can shed new light on the work of art itself.  By emphasizing certain words, pausing in key places, or modulating  the voice, an author is able to bring out nuances of meaning.  In other words,  authors' intentions can be made clearer when we hear them read from their own works.  A couple months ago, I listened to an audio book of Barbara Kingsolver reading her novel Prodigal Summer.  I know for a fact that I got so much more out of hearing her read this book than if I had tackled it on my own.  Another example: When I was a freshman at Denison University in 1976, Eudora Welty came and read one of her stories at a convocation (I don't remember which story anymore).  With her charm and mellifluous southern accent, this demure little lady drew me into her writing.  To top it off, the next day, to our surprise, she showed up in my English class and happily fielded questions from us guileless 18-year-olds.  I'm not sure if Flannery O'Connor sat in on any English classes when she visited Vanderbilt in 1959.  However, she did read her short story "A Good Man is Hard to Find" before a university gathering.  It was recorded and now is widely available on the web.  If you wonder what the characters in Flannery's stories might have sounded like, the dialect that she heard spoken daily on the farm at Andalusia, listen to this
- Mark

No comments: