While discussing the various means of absorbing fictional tales recently I began contemplating the various forms.
I am a book lover, it’s in my DNA, from a long line of book readers. Complain, if one dared, of boredom in my childhood home and we would be firmly led to the overflowing bookshelves. We had no ‘out of bounds’ or ‘censored’ books, as far as I am aware, of course Mum and Dad may well have kept any such from view!
I always had one or two books at the very least on the go, a book for every mood. Indeed I still have the trio of books I read only when feeling ill: Black Beauty, Smokey and Beautiful Joe, all absolutely guaranteed to make me sob my heart out – just right when tucked up in bed feeling sad! Maybe I will re-read them one day. In my adulthood it was Georgette Heyer I turned to when ill; her historical romances could make me smile, even laugh, she had a wit that made even the most stubborn of colds feel better.
My distrust of film to narrate books was learnt very early on, apart from a couple of exceptions it appeared to me the medium ruined a good book. Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird and the Fellowship of the Rings spring to mind as exceptions. Of course, film cannot deal well with the physiologies, insights, complicated emotions or slow thoughtful pacing and indeed that is not what film is about, film is a visual experience.
So is film like a play? I am not so keen on plays either, so maybe for me, brought up so solidly on reading, my receptiveness to a tale will always struggle with the visual.
Thinking around this aspect I examined what childhood books I had still left in my possession 6 decades later. They were, in comparison with children’s books of the past 50 years, fairly devoid of pictorial content.
Our family were also quite late in acquiring a television set, so that I was well into my teens before I could ‘watch’ stories on a regular basis. Most of my early theatre experience had involved comedy or music of some kind The Whitehall Farces, Operetta and musical. So my synapses are obviously underdeveloped in the visual storytelling department!
I did enjoy going to the cinema, saving my pocket money, walking to places to save the bus fares towards entrance tickets. My friend from forever/editor and I would spend most Friday and Saturday nights in the dark watching the silver screen. These were tales I never read, such as westerns (I have never had any desire to ‘read’ this genre ever, they are to be watched) and musicals.
I was introduced to audio books in my 40s when I was exploring this possibility for my sister whose sight was vanishing like burnt away mists. She was also a bookworm and we needed to find a way. It took her a long time to switch, to accept she could no longer ‘read’ her stories. It took me even longer to even try them.
When I nursed my mother, over the years, I listened to many audios because, as another of the family bookworms laid low, we had persuaded her to try them and once hooked she would listen for hours with great pleasure to old favourites and new delights. I had perforce to listen as that’s where my life was, in her room. I discovered the most curious thing. I heard the stories, some very familiar, to me on a whole new plane of experience.
If I ‘listen’ to a book, forced to wander through the pages at the speed of the reader, there are layers upon layers of new experience to discover. I have more than enough time to listen to the ‘words’, the construction of the sentences. Time, especially with the classics such as Dickens and Thackeray, to enjoy the descriptions. It is worth the time. I know that realms of purple prose are not fashionable these days but those Greats could summon up whole environments, listen to the words – glorious. I found I was enjoying the experience.
However film, apart from a brief foray in my teens, is a medium I know little about. If there is a choice between seeing a ‘drama/film’ or ‘almost anything else’, I will usually choose ‘almost anything else’.
I now have books on my e-reader as well as on my shelves and Audio books waiting patiently for the day I will need them, but always at heart I’m a ‘reading’ girl. Still addictively buying print.