I fell asleep listening to Emma the other night on my iPod, and woke up listening to Hitler. Struggled to wake myself up and out of the nightmare but didn’t quite succeed. I realized in the morning that Emma had morphed into Explaining Hitler*
(the books are arranged alphabetically). Last month Middlemarch leapt into Moscow 1941. The history books are great for walking but not for sleeping. The trouble is, books can switch in the middle of the night. The way around this is to make a playlist of the book you want to listen to during the night, so it just keeps circling.
What books you listen to at night are important. For me, only Jane Austen and George Eliot’s Middlemarch pass the test because I know and love Austen’s novels and Eliot’s masterpiece intimately and trust them completely. (Sometimes Sense and Sensibility is hard to take at night though, because Marianne’s grief and panic in London are so vivid.)
The reader’s voice is also important. Often readers squeak when they read Mrs. Bennet’s lines. I realize Mrs. Bennet probably did squeak a bit, but the squeaking wakes me up. One of my favorite readers sounds just like my late stepmother, whom I miss terribly. The intonation and voice pitch are eerily similar, and whenever I’m listening to this Flo Gibson read Northanger Abbey, I dream about Pauline.
Jane Austen’s letters are now available on Audible for downloading to your listening device. Unfortunately, the letters are abridged, but hopefully an unabridged version will be available soon.
Jane in the morning, Jane at night! She never falters and never fails.
*By Ron Rosenbaum