This year we bought a car with a working tape player, and having played my Best of Leonard Cohen tape to death, I’ve started listening to books on tapes. The limited selection at the public library forces me to listen to things I might not have read in print, which is good. It also makes me realise how much driving I do, when I get through a nine hour audiobook in a bit over a week.
I finished Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar a couple of days ago, and I liked it a lot. Esther, the narrator, is far more spunky and interesting than I thought she would be. It’s a classic tale of adolescence; a comparison to Catcher in the Rye is inevitable but helpful. Bell Jar is set in 1953; Catcher in 1949; both are set in New York. Esther (born 1934) and Holden (born 1933) must have nearly have crossed paths a few times in their lives. They might have really liked each other. They both end up in mental hospitals too.
It was strange to think Sylvia Plath was born the same year as my Granny: they are from different worlds, it wasn’t the same milieu, growing up in Eastern US and Perth. No hopes of college or poetry for my Granny. It’s as much about personalities, I guess.
The voice of the woman reading the tape was all wrong; she was old, and I hated it when she did men’s voices or foreign accents in this screwed up kind of voice.
How different is it, listening to a book versus reading it? You can’t control the speed – that’s significant; it keeps rolling on, regardless. My mind drifts and I miss things. I get through more, because I’m less likely to stop, fatigued by the page. But what about cognition?
An eerie thing, Esther surviving her suicide attempt to tell the story, and I feel there’s a kind of optimism to her life, but this feeling is tempered by the knowledge that Plath killed herself soon after the book was published.