Saturday, August 1, 2009

Old Dogs, New Tricks!

I’ve always been a proponent of the saying “I learn something new every day.” Up to a certain point, I actually believed that I was learning something new every day. After giving it considerable thought, I decided that, in truth, I was not learning something new every day. As a matter of fact, I think my learning curve had become, well, a flat line! I love to read, but I tend to avoid reading when I’m busy writing. When one is busy writing one’s own thoughts and ideas, there’s not a lot of room for the thoughts and ideas of others.

When I was a child, I remember my mother ordering records for the blind for my grandmother to listen to. She wasn’t totally blind, but she loved her stories and could no longer read for any length of time. I used to think, in a child’s way, that I would never want to get to the point of not being able to read for myself. But this old dog has learned something new, and has put away the ideas of that child all those years ago.

For the past year or so, I’ve been listening to books on CD or books on mp3 in an effort to expand my mind set a bit. I tell people I listen to CDs of books in my car, and they generally respond that they are not in their cars long enough to listen to an entire book. I have a 15-minute drive to work, and although I listen to a book from beginning to end in 15-minute increments, I don’t lose my place or forget what I’ve heard. At the same time, I have a different book downloaded on my mp3 player that I listen to if I don’t care for background television noise or when using one of my various pieces of exercise equipment. In spite of the fact that this is never the same book that I’m listening to in the car, I don’t seem to have a problem keeping it straight, nor do I confuse the stories.

I’m citing this fact as proof to myself (and to everyone else) that dementia has not yet set in!

I’ve listened to hundreds of books and find that the only limiting factor for me is the voice of the reader. There are books I truly wanted to listen to, but once the playback started, I turned it off for sheer auditory annoyance. For example, I picked up a copy of A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini (author of The Kite Runner), but I didn’t make it through a single disc. The reader, (whose name escapes me) had a voice that was flat, with no intonation, not even to indicate emotion. It was like listening to a monotone, droning speaker at some fund-raising event you are required to attend; only in this case, you’re subjecting yourself to the monotony. There are some great readers out there. One that comes to mind is Barbara Rosenblatt, who makes a book leap to life. You hear every nuance and feel every emotion. Another is Joe Montagna (yes, the actor, presently starring on Criminal Minds). Readers like Barbara and Joe make the listening a pleasure.

Audio books make any commute, short or long, go by in a faster, more pleasurable way. I love climbing behind the wheel and hitting the road as long as I have a book with me to pop into the CD player. Long solo road trips are my favorites. Sometimes I can listen to two books, one in each direction! They also help keep the mind focused, and keep you awake at the wheel.

Now, all you old dogs, get out there and listen to the books you always wanted to read but haven't gotten around to yet

And you young things out there, you don’t have to be old to do it. Even high school and college students, especially the ones who “hate” reading, can probably pick up the assigned reading list on CDs or mp3s. Trust me when I say it takes the pain out of it. You may even find yourself becoming addicted to the audible written word!