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.