starting in the middle

margo halverson

Part 2, Chapter 10

I listen to books. I do this while I walk the dog to Baxter Woods and let her run off leash until she is mud up to her belly, which is a lot of mud and running since she’s a standard poodle and this breed is known to be dogs on stilts. It’s about a 2 or 3 mile loop from home, depending on how much time I have and how much I want to keep listening to the books or if I’m just too distracted for any of it.

Today, I’m in the middle of The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. I stopped listening to Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel because I couldn’t keep all the characters straight. When I was on round 6 with the second chapter I decided I’ll just have to read it.

So today the narrator said: “Part 2, Chapter 10”. Whoa. I wasn’t prepared. When I heard this my mind wandered: Do chapters keep their sequence into the parts? Doesn’t the numbering start over? Should I have noticed in the story there was a sense of transition? …

By listening to books these spoken bits of structure either become too important and are jarring,  or sometimes worse can be missed all together. In Wolf Hall, it was hard to figure out if someone is saying something or just imagining it. (And who the hell was also in the room when Thomas Cromwell was or wasn’t saying that out loud?) I can’t ignore these parallel listening-thoughts when ‘reading’ by audio since there is no page turning, no white space, no italics or quote marks, no sense of  being 1/4-through by looking at the postcard-bookmark at the top of the text block. With audio, the only signal I’m allowed is to learn I have 7:59:35 left and that now I’m into 9:23 of Part 2.

So: it’s time to start a blog because why not note here the question of Parts or Chapters and where these notations of sequence and breaks, bits of endings and beginnings happen (or don’t). There is the story in front of us, there are the back notes pushing, pushing in.

Random. Today. Part 2, Chapter 10.

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2 comments on “Part 2, Chapter 10

  1. GE
    May 22, 2013

    One of the things I dislike intensely about kindle & other e-readers is the way they slice and dice the totality of the book, already, one might presume, thoughtfully subdivided by the author and later the designer. I didn’t realize that audio books were similarly molested. Of course, my literalness here misses the point and I don’t want you to think I don’t appreciate the sublime pleasure of dog and spoken word and nature as a continuum.

  2. margohal
    May 23, 2013

    Hi GE, Thank you for your comment! (My first!)
    To clarify (and I edited my post to this effect) there was no slicing and dicing of the book, but the totality of the book is definitely my point: in listening – the breaks, the rhythm, the understanding of structure has to be a parallel listening exercise overlaid onto the story and this can become a distracting foreground.

    Of course I also have these questions because I am a book designer and suggesting pacing and speed, emphasizing sequence and hierarchy with white space, typography, and composition is where I live. I could never read on an e-reader because of the horrible justified typography (huge gaps between words to allow the left and right sides of the text column to end aligned). Even if there is a button to make the type flush left I’d miss the various random-ish bookmarks that move slowly to the back.

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