Let us honor the passing of a friend…
So much is said (in the circles I move in anyway) about the time before a narrator begins to record a book. There are as many ways to prepare a book as there are narrators recording. I can fairly say I rarely prep a book the same way every time. Just as every book is unique in how I choose to narrate it, I approach each book differently in how I prepare it. Okay – marginally so in many cases, but then, what may seem to an observer very tiny, subtle differences, may actually feel huge to me.
A slight digression: I have never forgotten the acting coach who pointed out the difference between an actor’s and an audience’s perception of any particular performance. Let’s say one evening I give the most checked in, present performance of a particular rôle I can remember…and then the next night I’m just lucky to remember my lines. Now, if I hold one hand high and one hand low, that is the difference I feel exists between the level of excellence of those performances. If asked, any particular audience member may accept that one was better than the other, but if they were to describe how they perceived the difference they may hold the thumb and forefinger on one of their hands a half inch apart. Message being: we are not the best judges of our own work.
But, as I say, I digress….I wanted to focus today on what happens for me after the conclusion of a book.
I have finished recording Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel The Unconsoled. The last four chapters disappeared into the digital landscape rather rapidly this morning. As the saying is these days: “so many feels”. No matter the book (though more so if the book is a large one) I feel overwhelmingly sad as I approach the finale. It can start a few chapters from the end, or it can jump on me as I read the last couple of pages. It certainly depends on the book, but even if it’s a bad book (badly written, logically unclear, in short – a mess) I will be sad at it’s passing. Believe me I am often surprised at how a book that I have not enjoyed and that appears to have been a chore from beginning to end will still leave me in a place of mourning. The level varies and sometimes it’s a sadness of only a few seconds. But if the book has embraced many levels of human experience and/or taken me on an emotional roller-coaster then I’m going to have echoes reflecting around my mind for some hours.
This was such a book.
That’s not to say there weren’t times when I wished it would come to an end. Even in the best of books I sometimes find myself wanting to get on to the ‘next thing’. I wonder if I have a touch of ADHD? But I tuck myself further into my seat, find a deeper level of commitment, and hang on for the ride. Maybe I want to bail early knowing that when the end comes the vulnerability I feel may prove uncomfortable.
I’m nervous about saying here why this book affected me in the way it did. I worry that my interpretation is not the ‘right’ one. Silly really – we are all entitled to our own interpretations and I shouldn’t worry about how worthy my opinions might be (but I am, today anyway – so). Suffice to say this novel triggered fears I have about a decline in mental acuity. Maybe not today or in the next few years… but one day. Having said that, I do have days even now when…didn’t I do that?…how did I forget to do…?…how did I get here from there? It’s true this has probably happened throughout my life – but these concerns become greater as we age (and especially as we witness our aging parents).
I love narrating, because it is something different week to week. But with that…excitement…comes the responsibility of dealing with change, of loss. And we need to take care of ourselves in those transitions. Don’t skip over change, don’t fortify yourself against it’s influences. I think recognizing and embracing change when it happens (it’s not always as obvious as the end of one thing and the beginning of another) allows us to fully experience the wonders of life… and it keeps us awake and alive to our infinite universe.