No Country for Old Men, on CD

Posted on August 06, 2008 by Steve

Having enjoyed the movie, and several other titles by the same author, I was pretty confident that I would not be disappointed by this book. But knowing that I would be reading it in my usual pattern of bits and pieces at odd moments, it occurred to me to get the recorded version and put my commute to good use. I used to listen to books on tape in the car, and at dreary data entry jobs, and was happy to find that many titles are now available on CD.

No stranger to the pleasure of the printed page, I count some books among my most treasured possessions. The soft, rounded corners of my old Modern Library paperback copies of Dostoyevsky, or the thick, creamy pages of Tufte's lovingly self-published volumes are an inseparable part of the reading experience. But the real joy of a novel is in the story, in the double life you lead for a few days or weeks while you secretly inhabit another world, worrying and wondering about characters you know more intimately than most friends.

The comparison between books and their film adaptations is often made, and films are usually criticized for what they leave out. One advantage the film has over a book is a set pace. You have to take action to interrupt a movie, but when reading a book each new chapter, indeed every page is an opportunity to pause and continue later.

The recorded book is a happy medium. A professional reader, as is typical with Books on Tape and Recorded Books, brings the words to life, literally giving voice to the characters. This alone is a vastly richer experience than the silent internal monotone in which I, at least, read to myself. Each morning and evening this week I am enjoying a private, intimate performance by Jeremy Irons. (Sometimes uncomfortably intimate, but that's for a later review.) By avoiding abridgments, nothing of the author's intent is lost. The pace may be a little slower than some people can read, but I find my attention more focused and rarely catch my mind drifting, as sometimes happens while reading.

Columnists wring their hands over the imagined, and to my mind unlikely, doom of the printed word in the electronic age. They should remember that writing is merely a proxy for speech, that the first stories were oral histories, and, after all, any technology that keeps books in circulation ultimately helps keep them in demand.