Listening to Philip

November 27, 2012 // Miscellaneous Book Nerdery

Do you listen to audio books? I know some people rRoth Communisteally look down on the format, and actually, I never even used to give books on CD a thought. They just didn’t fill a need in my world.

That is, until the traffic on my commute really started to get to me. I started to realize that I was able to gauge how long it took me to creep, creep, creep along based on the average length of a song.  And re-listening to the Howard Stern Show on the drive home, well, I was able to zone out and focus all my frustration on the drivers in front of me.

I turned to audio books as a means of distraction from all the irritating drivers around me around me (I’m not an irritating driver, I’m sure of it, no really…well maybe) as well as from the voices in my head reminding me what a massive waste of time it was to sit in traffic so much every day.

When I started listening, I wasn’t even sure I could include them in the “Books I’ve Read” list I keep every year. I mean, I didn’t actually read this book; someone read it to me. A friend reminded me that you’re still putting time into the book and you are still walking away with the knowledge. That put my mind at ease.

And I have to say, I’ve gotten a lot out of my drive-time books that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. I buy them used, so I have dollar limits I’m willing to spend, and that opens me up to authors I otherwise might have ignored.

I’m embarrassed to say Philip Roth is one of those authors. My husband had bought a copy of I Married a Communist when it first came out, but it sat on our shelves unread all those years. When I saw the audio version on a used shelf, I gave it a chance … and I fell in love.

I was captivated … by his words, by the story, by the settings, by the characters, young and old … it felt like a masterpiece. I felt like others around me on the commute might look over and see a wide-eyed girl, leaning forward expectantly, as though she were watching a film and not listening to words coming through the speakers. I was in his world.

And I was so happy to know we had the book in print too (why that matters is another story in itself).

I followed that up with Indignation, which sideswiped me in its jump from a normal memoir to a somewhat unearthly memoir, so to speak. I like to be sideswiped in a book.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten in my Roth reading, and now the word is out that he is retiring. And it saddens me. Perhaps because I know he’s a living man that seems to just be stopping … how can a writer stop writing? Perhaps because this means that there will be nothing new to come. And still, I have such a broad back catalog of his to explore (31 books!) that I shouldn’t be worried. But to know that that catalog now is finite (only 31 books!) is making me feel a loss.

Still, I have another Roth audio book in my car waiting its turn, so just another 28 books to go. (Just another 28 books to go?!)


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Amy says, "Wait a minute, I want to finish this chapter."

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