How do we honor the books we no longer identify with that once felt like the perfect articulation of our being? My strategy for the longest time has been to simply not reread them. But that sort of willful ignorance just doesn’t feel sustainable. There has to be a way to honor what the book once did while still problematizing its contents.
It can be hard, coming out of a three-year MFA program, to look around and realize it was all temporary. Even as I’ve decided to commit to Ann Arbor for one more year, to the apartment I’ve been in for two years, to teaching at the university that bequeathed me my degree, all around me my people are deciding to leave. I don’t feel left behind so much as I feel that my landscape is evaporating, the Ann Arbor I’d signed up for no longer the Ann Arbor that remains.
I had forgotten that I was allowed to talk about my feelings when recommending a book. Not just allowed, but encouraged. Not that I wasn’t “allowed” to talk about how a book made me feel when surrounded by other writers or students; it just seemed that one’s feelings were beside the point. Yes, yes, this book made you feel happy, the characters made you feel like you knew them, but why did it make you feel that way? My further education was always trying to break me out of this mold of feeling without thinking.
Audiobooks obviously rely heavily on voice. And so it is voice that can lift an audiobook well beyond the reaches of the actual book. Voice can be divided into two schools: the school of multiple voices and the school of one, charismatic voice. While the most well known example of the first school is Jim Dale, who read for the Harry Potter series, embodying a wholly unique voice for each character in the series—a number that easily clocks into the hundreds—the major player in my audiobook days was Johanna Parker, who read for the steamy, thrilling Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mystery series.
To end this cycle without limiting myself to just one book at a time, I am attempting to curate the books that litter my home. I’m trying to cluster books together, to avoid, as best I can, the erasure of what I have read by what I am now reading. Memory instantly improves if you build a network of relations surrounding the remembered object, my theory being that the more I categorize a group of books together, the easier it will be to remember them all. And the categories, rather than being static, are constantly shifting. Certain books, I am finding, harmonize better than others. Certain books, when read together, satisfy all my literary cravings. Certain books start a conversation, one that teaches me how to read, think, and write better.