Monday, May 23, 2011

Reading Aloud with a Knot in My Throat

When I'm an English teacher, I will probably have many opportunities to read literature out loud to my students. In my daily reading practices, though, the vast majority of my reading is silent. So, as I finished up reading Where the Red Fern Grows, I decided to challenge myself (emotionally) and read the second-to-last chapter--the tear jerker--audibly with a reading buddy.

For the record, I didn't cry. But my voice did get a bit strained when I read how Old Dan took his final breath with one last thump of his tail and a longing look at Billy. It wasn't easy to voice aloud Little Anne's devotion even unto death to her buddy, Old Dan, and Billy's heart-wrenching reaction to the deaths of his dogs.

Interestingly, reading the chapter out loud did more than expose my soft spot for a couple of good, loyal dogs. The text, which I have frequently admitted isn't masterfully written, sounds much more beautiful when spoken than when sounded only in my head. I'm not saying Where the Red Fern Grows is poetry, but it is written precisely as it would be spoken by a man who spent his childhood in the backwoods of the Ozarks, a man with a beautiful story that is perfect in its simplicity.

Creating visual art to represent interaction with the book is kind of like reading it out loud. It takes on a new, third dimension. Art is like the intonations in the reader's voice. Art is like the knot in my throat, a near-tangible demonstration of how the novel moves us.

1 comment:

  1. Hearing a story read out loud can be a great experience. With Hitchhiker's Guide, I've been thinking a lot about the difference between reading and hearing the story. It's funny how with reading, writing and especially printing we've forgotten the cultural value of the oral tradition. Now, with audiobooks so easy to find and listen to, we have a chance to return to the oral tradition. Hearing someone's voice gives it that extra layer of humanity and helps connect me to the story.