Friday, September 23
Recently, I have been listening to the BBC audio productions of The Chronicles of Narnia as I run. The experience has reminded me that the power of hearing great stories read aloud is an unsurpassed pleasure.
Silent reading is actually a fairly modern innovation. As late as the eighteenth century, it was thought that the best way to truly appreciate the classics was to read them aloud--all the better to relish the beauty of the words, the music of the composition, and the architecture of the ideas.
In books like the Waverly novels or Shakespeare's plays or even something as contemporary as the Narnia tales, the sundry uses of experimental literary structures or the proliferation of odd colloquialisms make reading aloud even more advisable. You’ll quickly find that what was an obstacle when you were reading silently has suddenly been transformed into a delight. Unfamiliar phrases, peculiar historical references, and odd vocabulary choices become all the more charming, challenging, and cheering.
Late last night I began rereading the wonderful old epic poem Marmion. Though I was alone in my library, I could not help but break the silence of the night to read the sonorous tones of Sir Walter Scott's brogue aloud. What a perfect way to end a long and wearying day.