Following up on my own thoughts about audiobooks and why I can’t “read” that way, it turns out a post by Patrick Rhone I’ve had sitting in my Safari reading list for days helps me pin down the whys and wherefores.
So, in an effort to be more gentle with myself I’ve come to embrace my reading as a part of my practice. I call it Mindful Reading (more slowly — the opposite of speed reading). The idea that my lack of speed actually allows me to be more present with each word and idea. That, to feel shame and desire around this is causing needless self-suffering when self-kindness and permission are called for instead. So, if I read fewer books or it takes me longer to get through one it might mean that I simply was more present with the books I read. Mindful Reading is OK.
I am not a “mindful reader”, per se, but this notion of one’s own sense of pace, I think, lies at the heart of why I can’t do audiobooks. When I am reading, my pace varies and it does so often because there is a mental and emotional calculus that exists at the interface between the writer’s words and the reader’s reading of them. The nature of that interface zone is going to vary from reader to reader because no matter how well-crafted those words might be to create a certain response to and experience of them, the writer knows nothing of the reader’s own mind.
Audiobooks hold no appeal for me because it mediates the relationship between writer and reader through a third-party: the narrator or performer. That third-party introduces yet another mind into that calculus, one whose impressions and reactions can’t help but inform those of the reader-cum-listener. (Let alone that the narrator is working for a producer who themselves intervenes in the performer’s rendition.)
For some people, I guess this works. I don’t understand it, and I can’t imagine I ever will, but that’s fine. For me, though, I need the relationship between writer and reader to be unmediated; unprocessed until the writer’s mind meets mine face-to-face.