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Posted on 14 Aug 2015 in The Godfather: Peter Corris |

The Godfather: Peter Corris on listening to books

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peternewpicSome time ago I wrote a column about how my defective eyesight had pushed me first to big print books and then to e-books where I could blow up the font on my e-reader. This was a great boon and by 2014 all 40 or so books I read that year were e-books.

Unfortunately, my eyesight dipped still further, forcing me to increase the font so that I was only getting at best about 40 words per screen, the equivalent of three or four lines of ordinary print.

The result was that it took me an inordinate length of time to read a book.

I first became interested in reading speed when I learned that US President John F Kennedy was a noted speed-reader. The only book I know for certain that he read (I’m sure there were many others) was Ian Fleming’s From Russia with Love. Kennedy’s praise for the book helped it to become a best seller, for which Fleming expressed his gratitude – as you would. It amused me to think of JFK whipping through a James Bond adventure in an evening, after a day dealing with matters of state.

When I was a postgraduate student at the ANU and obliged to read massively, particularly the dense material in parliamentary papers, I took advantage of a speed-reading course offered at the university. I forget the details of the exercises other than they were designed to enable you to take in blocks of information rather than reading line by line. I met the standard but lapsed subsequently and I’m sure my reading speed remained somewhere around average.

My doubts about speed-reading made me appreciate the well known Woody Allen quip: ‘I did a speed reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.’

Even when I could read ordinary print I was astonished at the speed at which Jean reads, not only in devouring books, but also her ability to comprehend material in all sorts of documents seemingly at a glance, but I pottered along.

The recent change in my eyesight however, has thrown up a serious problem. Reading at the rate of 40 words per screen has slowed me down so that it takes me so long to read a book, even one in which I am keenly interested, that I become tired of the book itself. This is a terrible affliction for a dedicated reader.

I’ve written before about talking books as the possible solution. These became available many years ago, first in cassette and later in CD form, but in recent times they have become available as e-files borrowable from libraries and buyable from various sources. The books are read by actors skilled in the nuances of accents, emphases, old and young, male and female voices, so as to make the characters and settings come alive.

It’s early days for me and there are drawbacks, mainly the limited number of titles available and the time lapse between publication and the audio version, but I am encouraged. Earphones enable me to listen in comfort and not disturb others.

My worry was that, in fiction, the voice would work against my own mental picture of the character and the action. So far, there is no sign of that happening and this facility may even have been enhanced. I hope to continue my lifelong love of the written word until … THE END.