Read it. Out loud. Please?
Only rarely, can I get my kids to read to me.
Every night, as I crawl into bed next to them at bedtime, they beg me or my husband to read a few pages to them. They aren’t big into reciprocation.
Even if I convince them, a few paragraphs into it…my eyes will be closed and I will inevitably hear a pause, and then longer pauses still, and when I open my eyes, I realize they are now reading silently to themselves. Slowly they become absorbed. Quickly they forget me, there beside them.
(There are, I do realize, worse family challenges to have.)
Last night, I attended Narrative Night in San Francisco. Narrative Magazine is a very cool non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve literature for future generations in a digital world. Online and for free. It promotes the art of storytelling, encouraging and publishing both emerging and proven writers.
Imagine my surprise when I found 300 people there.
(BookSnobs all in one place!)
They were honoring three amazing writers:
Anthony Marra: winner of the Narrative Spring 2009 Story Context, currently a student at Iowa Writers workshop and an author to keep your eye on. Trust me, you’ll be hearing his name more. He read from his story Chechnya.
Ann Beattie. Prize winning short story writer and teacher at the University of Virginia. Read from a hilarious story called The Four Night Fight, an absurd tale about the love and conflict of a married couple.
James Salter: Pen Faulkner winner and novelist of Light Years, Burning the Days and A Sport & A Pastime. Read from a story called Charisma. It’s been 15 years since I have read anything by Salter and within 30 minutes I couldn’t help but think: How had I forgotten?
That’s not the best part.
These talented authors all read their stories. Aloud. Out loud. In their entirety.
300 noisy people, immediately silenced as each author, in turn, took the podium.
No shifting in their chairs, no stifled coughs, no whispering between friends. Just excited adults craning their necks to see, some closing their eyes and concentrating intently. Massive, energetic applause at the end.
The way Beattie quickened her pace as she talked about the fight between a married couple. The way Salter hit the F-word with such emphasis. The measured way of their tone. The way they felt each word they had painstakingly written. It was magically good.
Narrative themselves has some great audio readings on their site–so take a look.
Or, do check out The New Yorker’s fiction podcast series. It’s great authors reading other authors work.
When was the last time you heard a good book out loud? Do you listen to audiobooks? How are we going to preserve hearing authors’ stories in their own voice??
It’s an indulgence I suddenly remembered I would hate to lose.