Monday, October 6, 2008

Road Reading

As a chronic mult-tasker I've done things of which I'm a bit ashamed. In my first year of teaching, for example, some of my students drove up beside me at a traffic light and caught me grading papers while I waited. (My mantra, then as now: so many papers, so little time.)

Even worse, as I drove back home from Nashville alone one weekend, I had a new book I had bought at Davis-Kidd sitting beside me in the passenger seat, calling to me in whispers: read me, read me. I found that by placing the open book on my steering wheel, I could read a line or two at a time on the straight stretches of I-40. Before twilight faded, I'm embarrassed to admit, I'd read more than a hundred pages. (My current mantra: so many books, so little time.) Reading while driving is not as dangerous, I firmly believe, as texting while driving, but I don't recommend it.

Fortunately, I discovered recorded books back when Dick moved to North Carolina while I stayed behind in Alabama until the end of the school year. Cracker Barrel stores offered a great books-on-tape plan: I bought a book, listened to it, then returned it to the next Cracker Barrel for a refund of all but a couple of dollars. Many of the books were abridged, though, so I usually picked popular reading, so I'd be informed about books people were discussing, or books I was teaching and needed to review. Once I settled here in North Carolina, I found the public library a great resource for unabridged books on tape and CD.

I also made my way through the Harry Potter series listening to the most excellent reader Jim Dale on CD. Far too often, I sat in the garage, listening for a good stopping place. I had come to the last couple of chapters in the next to last book (you remember--Dumbledore) when I was driving to Charlotte with teaching friends to go to an NCTE conference. Two of them were reading the book too, but hadn't gotten as far as I had, so I had to wait. When I got to Charlotte-Douglas Airport, I found the bookstore and hid in a corner reading the last few pages. I hate crying on airplanes.

This weekend, I knew I was near the end of my current car book, Joe Hill's Heart-Shaped Box, so I stopped by the public library on my way out of town. In a moment suitable for movie slow motion, as I drew my library card from my billfold, it sailed out of my hands and wedged itself irretrievably in a tiny crevice beside my seat. Fortunately, I talked the librarians into letting me check out three more CD sets using my driver's license.

Heart-Shaped Box is something of a horror tale, not my usual genre. I couldn't quit listening, though, perhaps in part because the reader seemed to be channeling Kris Kristofferson for the protagonist's voice. When it ended, however, I was ready for something different, so next I played Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, whose "last lecture" delivered at Carnegie-Mellon shortly before his death, has become a Youtube phenomenon. Although this book didn't include the actual lecture, he gave an expanded version of it, which he intended especially for his own children. I hate crying when I drive.

On my way home, then, I listened to five of six CDs of Elizabeth Berg's The Art of Mending. Having been gone all weekend, I decided against sitting in the garage listening to the end. With a twenty-five minute drive to and from work, I'll be finished soon. I will need to head back to the library soon for a refill.

1 comment:

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

hey Nancy, thanks again for your blog. Take a look at the wonderful fifth graders on my laureate blog and help me spread the word among teachers and students.
Will you be at the NCETA conference in Winston-Salem.