WHEN WRITERS AND READERS MEET
Nights In The Asylum
has just been published by Louis Braille Audio as an
unabridged audio book, and it was a thrill to receive a copy of the finished
work on a series of eight CDs.
This was a first for me as a writer, to curl up in a comfy chair and listen,
as the book was read back to me. My first
reaction was astonishment, as the text, which I know so well, was reinterpreted
for me. It reminded me that reading is anything but passive, and that readers
bring to books their own life experience, subtle layers of nuance which seem to
permeate the text. For a writer, this can be incredibly exciting, as the work
comes full circle, entering the world fully formed at last by the simple
completing act of being read out loud.
The audio production is read by
who has worked extensively
film and theatre, and who also narrated the TDK Australian Audio Book Award
by Mandy Sayer. In 2001Deirdre won an Adult Narrator of
the Year Award.
Here is a link to the Louis Braille website where you can sample the audio;
I have driven more than a thousand kilometres this past two weeks, talking
books, books, books, as if (as my Grandmother used to say) my tongue was hinged
in the middle. Up until now, readers have been a concept rather than a reality,
alleged, like other situations not yet proven, so meeting reading groups face
to face has been both sobering and a thrill.
All the while a novel is still an untidy manuscript, or even a collection of
notes in a rainbow of inks, it is tricky to say exactly who it is being written
for. Some writers insist they write only for themselves, but that always seems
a touch coy, since the moment publication is mooted then readers are
automatically implied. Perhaps they mean that they are the first readers of
their work after which the world is welcome to it, as if primary creation is
both the first and last word on the subject.
While there would be no novel to read without that sustained creative effort,
writing for oneself somehow negates the subtle contribution brought to the page
by readers. For instance, the structure of alternating viewpoints used in
Nights in The Asylum
gently compels the reader to hold the text together - in
their heads all the stories, all the secrets, gradually knit together into a
single thick narrative chord - while each character stumbles towards a climax
they will never fully comprehend. Such is real life, too, although
unfortunately it passes without the omniscient reader to make sense of it for
Other writers enter into different contracts with their readers - see the newly
Diary of a Bad Year
by J.M. Coetzee in which the act of reading
becomes an integral part of the creative process, an invitation from the writer
to make structural decisions which affect the way the work unfolds into
consciousness. The parallel-universe structure of Lionel Shriver's
offers another kind of reader participation.
I could go on and on, but I am off to Dublin and Tipperary and yes, the writing
life is a hard life, but someone's got to do it.
Other musings on the Writing Life ...