Evening Reading

We’ve been keeping really bad hours lately, and bedtime has been inching later and later until, for the last three or four days, it’s been around four AM. Now, neither of us keeps a nine-five schedule, but it’s still not exactly healthy to go to bed at dawn, and sleep til nine (Fuzzy), or eleven (me – I can’t function on less than seven hours).

But one good thing has come of it…I’ve been listening to the BBC World Service overnight on the local NPR station, and just before 4 AM, they’ve been playing a spot that seems to be someone reading aloud an excerpt from a book. I say ‘seems to be’ because I never manage to be awake enough, or coherent enough, to hear the name of the speaker or the title of the work, I merely sense the change in tone and rhythm, and hear snippets of things that simply aren’t news soundbites.

It’s weird. I don’t like audiobooks – they go too slowly for me, and I zone out – yet, when the reader is good I like being read to. That started, I think, with my mother, reading Winnie the Pooh to me when I was very little, and doing all the voices, and then later, we followed the same chapter-a-night sequence with Little Women. By then I was six or seven, long since able to read myself, and it was the last book we read together, because I began to get impatient – a chapter a night takes an hour when someone’s reading it to you, but if you read in bed, to yourself, you can get through many many chapters.

Our version of reading together changed at that point – instead of my mother reading to me, we’d share books, and talk about them. But one summer, when I was about ten, my mother checked a book out of the library, a book that I now know is a compilation of the garden columns by Katherine White, and for a blissful few months, we read it aloud to each other.

Later, when I was fourteen, and in my first year of high school, I became addicted to KPFA’s Evening Reading series, which featured a whole series of novels, classic and less so, read aloud, a few chapters at a time. I remember that the person who was reading a Jack London piece (I can’t recall now, if it was White Fang or The Call of the Wild) had the richest, warmest voice…cultivated without being phoney, with a hint of a Boston accent, but only a hint. I have no idea who he was – some actor, I suppose – but I was, and am, in love with that voice.

I used to lie there at night, listening to the radio in my darkened room, trying so hard to stay awake for the end of the section, and mostly failing, just as I had always failed when my mother read to me, when I was a young child.

I lie in bed the same way now, listening to the authors on the BBC, and trying to stay awake to hear the credits – who are they? What are they reading?

But I never do. And I’m left to wonder, because, somehow, I never think to google the show.

And when Fuzzy creeps into bed, a bit after the show has ended, I always grumble that his first move is to turn off the radio.