After I laughed aloud, I felt a shiver of subversion. By denying the author my bifocal-assisted saccadic movements, I was Doing Something Naughty. At my age, this is a bigger thrill than you might imagine.
Then I felt annoyance. We are not talking about Cliff Notes. We are not even talking about the Reader's Digest Condensed Version. We are talking about a full text version, every nuance and graceful phrase included, only taken in auditorily rather than visually.
I don't like Book Cops. I am glad not to band together with them in judgmental little groups, though I never imagined that book groups would include book cops. Reading groups, I suppose, exist to reinforce reading, and though I think they are a dandy idea, it saddens me to hear that some people use them to feel superior to others.
We aren't a nation of great listeners, and to me, that's a pity. In my impressionable years, I had the good fortune to have an English teacher who taught values along with English. She emphasized listening, that most neglected of the language arts, or so she told us. I was so inspired by her example that I threw myself into paying close attention to what people had to say, developing a skill that has led to great personal and professional growth over the years. Later, as a reading specialist, I learned from students with disabilities, that lacking a sense of voice in print often lay at the foundation of comprehension problems.
Listening is a way in which we can help each other to be heard, quite literally, and perhaps made less lonely, to boot. Listening is giving the voice a rest so that we can hear the voices of others. And with excellent writing, often the most awe-inspiring aspect isn't the story being told as much as it is the authorial voice, that enabler of the magic fusion of art and idea.
NPL's audio collection is a fine one, growing all the time. Lots of busy people find time to experience books through their ears--as they drive, as they complete mostly manual tasks, as they prepare for sleep. Many children are availing themselves of the tome-like collection of Harry Potter CDs, and to me, they are not cheating. They are discovering the voice that sings in print.