Friday, May 06, 2011

When To Read And When To Listen

Right now, I'm making my way through C. S. Lewis' conversion story, Surprised by Joy. Again. And again. I've got both the Audible version and a hardbound book version and going through it is like driving a jeep across unpaved roads.

For the most part, the book is easy driving in the Audible version. It tells of his life growing up and a little bit of his time in the Great War. It ends with his experiences as a teacher of philosophy. Only those experiences that apply to his conversion are included. At times, he goes into a logical deconstruction of how those experiences were internalized and analyzed to produce his world view. When he tells stories from his life, the jeep is running across solid ground. When he dips into philosophy, you've got to get out and push the thing.

"You can see where it got stuck. Right there, where he is differentiating between experiences and the feelings they produce and how this leads to a tripartite nature of the world rather than a dual one."

For that reason, you need both species of his work. I listened to chapters 13 and 14 yesterday while driving in the car, but had to come home and read them last night to really understand what he was saying. I'm still not completely there, but I'm close. I'd read the book about 6 months ago and had the same problem in reverse. The stories from his life left me unprepared for the hard slogging of the philosophical parts.

I'm going through St. Augustine's The City of God right now on audio only and it's much the same. While he's refuting pagan critics following the sack of Rome, it's easy driving. As soon as he gets into theology, you're pretty much done and have to find a solid copy of the book so you can get out and push.

Despite the need to flip back and forth from time to time, and the need to buy two copies of these kinds of books, I'm finding this an excellent way to muddle through philosophy and theology. The Audible version keeps you interested enough to want to push your jeep through the mud in the deeper parts.


tim eisele said...

I'm inclined to agree that any book that requires much thought on the part of the reader is better read in print rather than listened to as an audiobook. The problem I have with audiobooks is that they are at the same time too slow (speaking is much slower than reading text, so if I see where they're going with something before they get there, I have to wait for them to cach up), and too fast (if you want to stop and think about something, the reader just keeps prattling on). Which means that I keep alternating between waiting for them to get on with it, and trying to catch up to where they are now. I have the same problem with lectures, except that there I at least can noodle along with my thoughts while taking notes.

The only audiobooks I have been able to listen to without going to sleep are purely entertainment. And I much prefer to learn things from text rather than from other people speaking.

K T Cat said...

Tim, I totally agree with you about the speed of the reading. Since I spend a lot of time in my car, the price I'm paying for the parts that are too slow is pretty cheap. My alternatives include shallow talk radio or music I've heard zillions of time. While the audiobooks are slow, at least I'm making my way through them, something I'm almost always too tired to do at the end of a work day.

Kelly the little black dog said...

A variant on the audio book route are podcasts. There is an amazing amount of creative work out there. For example I came across a scifi story written by HP Lovecraft I'd never of before.

K T Cat said...

Kelly, I totally agree. I like the Ricochet podcast quite a bit and Dave Ramsey is always a great fallback should I run out of stuff of Audible.