Listening to Writing

I started writing fiction about three years ago. One thing that has really helped me to get a feel for the cadence and musicality of prose is listening to audio books.  A skilled reader can evoke rhythms not readily apparent through text alone. Two examples of this can be found at, the free samples conveying how hearing great writing can enhance the reading of it*–

– Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, read by Richard Poe. Poe is one of the finest readers I’ve encountered, rendering McCarthy’s prose with a magisterial, almost biblical, grace.

– Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son, read by Will Patton. Another example of how a talented reader can make a story crackle and spark.

The danger is that a performance of the text can limit the scope of that text’s ambition, shading the listener into an interpretation constructed by the reader’s art rather than the writer’s. I think this can be avoided if one listens to books one has already read, the initial understanding of the text thus being opened to alteration rather than created from whole cloth.

*note: I don’t work for Audible or have any connection to it other than being a subscriber

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3 responses to “Listening to Writing

  1. Barb

    I like your website and agree with your observations about “Listening to Writing.” I listen while driving.
    The only book I’ve ever read that felt like listening was Stephen Kuusisto’s “Eavesdropping.”

  2. Dennis

    Putting “Eavesdropping” on my list of books to get, thanks for the tip, Barb.

  3. Pingback: Pointer #19 – Bound Off Literary Audio Magazine | Dennis Y. Ginoza

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