Saturday, November 14, 2009

Reading Aloud

I first read aloud, in a way that was recognized in a truly congratulatory way, in church. See, I was a "good reader" and this meant that I was called upon (in my Catholic grade school) to do readings in church. I remember being coached by teachers and nuns about how to do a reading well. I remember being given readings in advance in order to practice them. I remember practicing.

I did one of the readings at my first communion. I did one of the readings at my confirmation. I read at countless masses that had no such great significance. I remember being annoyed that I was never chosen to bring forth the wine and hosts for offertory, as I had to be "a reader." But I've been reading, publicly, performatively, since I was a child.

And I really like reading publicly, performatively. It's something I know how to do, and it's something that I've grown to really enjoy doing.

But it's weird, because how many people, and how many jobs, count "reading aloud" as a skill?

In my last super-serious relationship, we read aloud to one another. Indeed,that's how I experienced the bulk of Infinite Jest - my boyfriend would read until he was sick of reading and then I would read. Let's note that this was his idea - that we'd read aloud to one another - not mine. But it was lovely. When we stopped reading, the relationship was over.

And here and there I've read a passage or there to various suitors, though never so much as I did with my last super-serious relationship, and never because I was telling a suitor a story as I was with my super-serious person, but rather because I read something with an agenda or seeking a reaction. When a girl like me selects a passage for you, she does it with intent. That's not the same thing as reading a story.

Today I participated in a reading event. This event was organized around a Great Work of American Literature which it takes 24 hours to read aloud. I arrived, I watched, I read my 20 minute segment, and I hung around for hours, being read to. I have to say, the portion that I ended up reading was absolutely perfect for me, and I did well. And much of what I heard after was read in a lovely way - it showed me this novel in a way that made it matter to me, made it matter to me in a way it would not have if I'd read it silently on my own, and has not done when I've tried to read it on my own.

I guess this experience made me realize, though, how much I really miss it when somebody is just reading to me. And I miss being read to and having it mean something specific. I miss reading to another person and having it mean that I love them so irrevocably.

Yes, I've got a job where I get to read aloud, where I get to feel aloud through words. I get a job where I get to practice this talent. And the fact that I get this? It's irreplaceable. But I wish that I had someone to whom I felt compelled to read, and someone who would read to me. I wish that I weren't just... outside of stories with happy endings.


Annie Em said...

Perhaps you can post an audio of you reading aloud, Dr. Crazy: a multidimensional blog?

Ok, if not that, than a HINT about the work that takes 24 hours to read aloud? I've been involvded in several public readings, since I, too, have been told that I have a "voice for radio" and can read aloud well: I've read "Howl" (but they that's usually in April) and Poe (Oct) and Dickens (Dec) and Joyce (June). And Moby Dick (during spring finals week, to ease the tension for students studying in the library).

Was that it? Moby Dick? That was, if I recall, about 24 hours!

Dr. Crazy said...

It's indeed Moby-Dick. The most awesome thing is that I read the "A Bosomn Friend" chapter. Totally appropriate for my reading talents :)

Anastasia said...

PH and I read to each other now and then. we spent a big part of our honeymoon reading the princess bride aloud.

I don't know but it seems like there is some connection between performing text and acting. like in a shakespearean drama. ever done that? you might be good.

PhysioProf said...

What a lovely post, Dr. Crazy!

Brigindo said...

I love being read to and reading aloud. My mother did it/does it exceptionally well. I learned to read on my own fairly young (age 4) but my mother continued to read to me whenever I asked until I was 8 or 9.

Every year b reads A Christmas Carol aloud on Thanksgiving...after all the eating is done. Some years we take turns.

Bardiac said...

I love reading Chaucer aloud :)

James said...

It normally drives me nuts to have someone read a book to me aloud (books should be read and not spoken, with the exception of poetry), but you make it sound really cool. I wish I had known about it early enough to have attended.