Sensory Reading

SOUND: CONFESSION: I don’t listen to podcasts. (That’s a lie. I do listen to The Great Concavity, but I haven’t listened to the interview with Adam Levin yet for fear of spoilers. But that’s an unrealistic fear isn’t it? Why would he spoil his book to an audience of listeners who would want to read it?) And, I’ve only listened to maybe three audiobooks in my life, but they were all narrated by the authors themselves and I still purchased a physical copy and read them again after listening. It isn’t because of any aversion to aural learning; I’m just a much stronger visual learner. When I listen to an audiobook, I tend to space-out, my thoughts wander, and although that might be the goal of speculative fiction, I’m often lost in my own world rather than the world so carefully constructed by the author.

However, I was so eager to start Bubblegum, that I signed up for Audible, used my two free credits to download it and Infinite Jest (an absolute bargain at 1 credit) and then promptly cancelled my subscription.

SOUND: I listened before bed and cracked up! I hadn’t found a book this funny since reading Infinite Jest. I mean, I couldn’t hear the line “Shut your piehole-cakeface, gaylord,” said Jonboat” without cracking a smile. And despite having a full knee-slapping guffaw at “It’s pissing through a boner,” I still passed out, earbuds in, audiobook playing.

I woke up to a dead phone. Apparently, 30% of the book had played before my battery died. All I remembered was a ridiculous character named Jonboat and something about a slogan on a T-shirt. Suffice it to say, my memory stopped at about 14 pages in, not 30%. NEWSFLASH: osmosis doesn’t work even when you have a direct link from the book to your body.

SMELL: My copy of the book arrived a few days later. And yes, it smelled like Bubblegum. I thought it was a scratch-and-sniff until I read the previous blog, which explains that it’s heat-activated.

TASTE: I ate a piece of Bubblegum in earnest when the book arrived. It’s not as great as anyone remembers.

SIGHT and SOUND: I decided to pair listening with reading. Although I could probably read it faster on my own, the voice of Mark Deakin had become Belt Magnet to me. The two seemed inseparable. So, I kept my slow and steady pace, learning from my mistakes, and pausing to sleep at page breaks. That is, until I got to Part II.

Part II is where we agreed to stop for this week. As such, the remaining discussion doesn’t spoil anything about Part II’s content. It is, however, the point at which my listening/reading experience was spoiled. So, I invite you, dear reader, to share in my misery, or to stop here.

Page Break

SIGHT: Read on. Join me in my obsessions.

SOUND: In Part II, I heard something I couldn’t unhear.

I heard a short, almost indecipherable hiss and then the first word of every sentence cut off. So, let’s say a sentence started with “So” I would only hear a faint hiss and then “ooo.” Or, “Or,” the faint hiss and then “rrr.” And once I noticed it, I couldn’t unnoticed it. I reasoned that Deakin was pronouncing the whole word, like any good voiceover artist would, but I couldn’t shake the idea that I heard the audio edits. Now, I’m not actively trying to dis the quality of the recording. My intentions here, are not to turn readers against the audiobook. I’m simply looking for solidarity, understanding, and to communicate/articulate my experience. Easy enough ask, right? That’s why I started with a disclaimer.

Either I’m a terrible auditory learner, or I’m super-sensitive, but the point is, I’m pretty sure it’s me! Maybe my “gate is open” to these auditory distractions. Maybe I can hear things no one else can. Maybe I’m as crazy as Belt Magnet. All I know is that once I noticed this quirk, it completely distracted me. I couldn’t pay attention to what was happening, so I stopped listening. And believe me, I sincerely mourn not hearing Levin’s grammar and syntax enunciated, as my interior reading voice does it no justice. Even the humor of the novel falls a little flatter reading it on the page instead of hearing it out loud.

TOUCH: On a brighter note though, I am now devouring the novel at my own ferocious reading pace. It’s been a real comfort to return to my natural reading habitat–reclined in bed, wrists cracking under the weight of a sweet-smelling hardcover, eyes racing back and forth across the page. And now I have a new obsession–The page break. It reminds me of Braille. Obviously, the spots aren’t raised, but I’m glad to have rediscovered my preference for a tactile experience. After all, Belt must ‘touch’ inans in order to communicate with them, so maybe the novel works the same way for me.

*I hope I haven’t ruined the audiobook for those of you who are still listening, and I hope I haven’t discouraged anyone from trying it out. More than likely, I’m the crazy one.