Strange & Ever After: A Perplexing End To A Worthwhile Trilogy

034 Susan Dennard’s trilogy about zombies rising in 1876 — Something Strange & Deadly, A Darkness Strange & Lovely, and Strange & Ever After — was an unlikely choice for me:

  • (1) I’m not particularly interested in paranormal historical fiction;
  • (2) The stereotypical cover featuring a blonde, young woman in a fancy dress doesn’t appeal to me;
  • (3) I’m about two decades older than its intended teenage audience; and
  • (4) I can’t remember the generic titles (which has nothing to do with my age, I’m not that old!).

But when I found out that Dennard’s zombies originate in Philadelphia, my hometown, I just had to read the first book.

Much to my surprise, I loved Something Strange & Deadly, in which Eleanor searches for her brother and meets the Spirit-Hunters employed by the city to stop the Necromancer from raising the Dead. In my review, I wrote:

[I]t was a thrill to see so many Philadelphia sites included in her story.  Eleanor has tea at 9th and Chestnut, which is the corner I used to live on; several of the boys who become the Dead were classmates at Germantown Academy, where my sister subbed for Latin last year; a character is admitted to Pennsylvania Hospital, where my other sister works in the Emergency Department; and, of course, the Dead are rising from Laurel Hill, which I pass on my way to work every day.*

The second novel, A Darkness Strange & Lovely, took place in Paris, where Eleanor and the Spirit-Hunters fight the freshly dead and hungry Les Morts. It wasn’t as captivating as the first novel, but it was good enough for me to pre-order the third and final novel in the trilogy, which arrived on my Kindle last week.

Susan Dennard SeriesIn the third book, Strange & Ever After, Eleanor and the Spirit-Hunters wind up in Egypt, where they finally face the Necromancer responsible for Eleanor’s pain.

One of the benefits of reading this novel on an e-reader is that I didn’t have to look at the cover. It’s yet another pale, pretty girl in a fancy dress, even though the protagonist of this story is a zombie-fighting woman who usually wears men’s clothing.** As she explains, “I cannot outrun the Dead in skirts and flounce.”

I appreciated Eleanor’s deviation from the gender norms of the time. However, for most of the novel, she is heavily dependent on the men in her life, particularly  her “demon” (which isn’t as sinister as it sounds) and, to a lesser extent, her love interest. The needlessly prolonged confirmation of Eleanor’s affection for this guy was annoying, but maybe it’s more believable to younger readers (its intended audience) who are less sure of themselves when it comes to love.

Eventually, Eleanor gains greater independence in an ending that I can only say is, well, controversial. I hated it at first. I wondered why would Dennard end the story like this: Was it to further Eleanor’s personal growth? Was it to avoid a pesky love-triangle? Was it to toy with her readers’ emotions?

After stewing over it for a few hours, though, I could finally see that what Dennard did was a fitting ending to the series, even if it isn’t the one I would’ve written. I’d love to see someone (preferably Dennard!) write an alternative ending or take the current ending to the next step. I can’t be the only reader interested in getting to know “Mr. McIntosh” a little better.

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*In my first post on this series, I included pictures of what Laurel Hill Cemetery looks like today. Those pictures were from winter (see here). In this post, I’ve included two pictures of what Laurel Hill—and the view from Laurel Hill—looks like in July.

**Eleanor managed to get away with wearing men’s clothing better than Frog Music’s Jenny did (see Emma Donoghue’s Frog Music: Portraying Gender Norms That Still Exist Today).

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Is Amazon a “Monopoly” (Or Is The Publishing Industry Too Loose With Its Words)?

In the ubiquitous, and increasingly annoying, coverage of the Amazon–Hachette dispute, it’s common for those who side with Hachette to assert that Amazon is a “monopoly” without really understanding what that word means.* One example is Steve Wasserman’s chicken-little-esque op-ed that appeared in The Nation (online) earlier this month. He claims, “the Obama Justice Department, seemingly mesmerized by visions of a digital utopia, is oddly blind to the threat to publishing posed by Amazon’s growing monopoly.”

In response to Wasserman’s op-ed, which calls for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Amazon, Max at Litigation and Trial* explores what a monopoly is:

A “monopoly” is when one supplier of a particular product or service is able to control the market. That does not remotely describe Amazon: the vast majority of books sold by Amazon are supplied by someone else, i.e., the publisher, and those same books are available elsewhere…

A “monopsony” is when one buyer of a particular product or service is able to control the market. (Consider, for example, if there were several commercial airplane manufacturers, but only one commercial airline.) “Monopsony” is potentially a better fit for Amazon than “monopoly,” because Amazon’s real pricing power is that it can push a hard bargain with publishers when it buys the ebooks, whereas with consumers Amazon sells the books at or below the prevailing market prices. …

In a monopsony, the monopsonist refrains from buying to force the suppliers to start discounting against one another (because there are no other buyers), until they are no longer making a profit. That simply isn’t the case here. First, the publishers have total control over where they sell their ebooks, and they exercise that power: the “Big Five” chose to not participate in Amazon Unlimited. Second, the ebooks are available all over the place, like Walmart and Target.

So, Amazon is not a monopolist or a monopsonist, nor did it engage in predatory pricing. As Max reminds us, the U.S. Department of Justice responded to complaints (from Barnes & Noble, the Authors Guild, and others) about Amazon in 2012, finding that “[s]ome of the criticism directed at Amazon may be attributed to a misunderstanding of the legal standard for predatory pricing.” Meanwhile, Hachette was one of the five publishers sued by the Justice Department that year for antitrust violations.

Most of the criticism about Amazon is fueled by misunderstandings and emotion, not common-sense, facts, or information about the legal or economic context of the Amazon-Hachette dispute. These are two big for-profit companies. Amazon is under no obligation to sell books from all publishers, and Hachette is under no obligation to sell its books through Amazon. In fact, those who are wary of Amazon’s growth should actually side with Amazon in this dispute and stop buying Hachette books through Amazon, thereby encouraging Hachette to continue to sell its books elsewhere and to increase Amazon’s competition. That’s how the market should work.

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*The details of the dispute remain vague, but it’s presumably a fight about e-book prices. Hachette and Amazon haven’t agreed on the terms, so Amazon hasn’t been loading its inventory of Hachette books as fully and hasn’t been offering pre-orders. Hachette books are still available through numerous other retailers because Amazon isn’t actually a monopoly.

**Max’s full post, which contains greater detail on these issues, is available here.

***See also, What’s Troubling About Amazon?

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Apple’s Collusion with Big Publishing to Raise E-book Prices: The Saga Continues

consumer case captionRemember when the U.S. Department of Justice sued Apple and five big publishers* for antitrust violations? The publishers all settled before trial. Then, after a trial last year, Judge Denise Cote of the U.S. District for the Southern District of New York found Apple liable for violating antitrust laws by conspiring with the publishers to raise prices on consumers.

Cote’s opinion meant that a related consumer class action case against Apple would go to a damages trial to see just how much Apple would have to pay to compensate readers. However, a week ago, Apple and the lawyers for the consumer class proposed a settlement, which now goes to Judge Cote for approval. (Individuals can settle their own lawsuits whenever they want, but class action settlements have to be approved by the Court to make sure that they’re fair to all the members of the class.)**

I’ve written before about Apple’s rather unrealistic view of their own products, and their proposed settlement reveals yet another example of Apple’s penchant for hyperbole. Just a few months after Apple attempted to remove Judge Cote  from the case because she had noted “consumers of e-books—including Apple’s own consumers—suffered hundreds of millions of dollars in harm,” Apple is now proposing a settlement that would pay up to $400 million to consumers (plus $50 million to the states and the attorneys).

But there’s a catch, and that’s what Judge Cote was concerned about in a conference call with the lawyers yesterday. The proposed settlement would not end the case, but would simply avoid the damages trial. Apple would continue with its appeal of Judge Cote’s findings last year: if Apple lost that appeal, Apple would pay $400 million towards a fund for consumers who bought e-books from any of the settling publishers between April 1, 2010 and May 21, 2012, plus $20 million to States that sued Apple, and $30 million to the lawyers for the class. Conversely, if Apple won the appeal, Apple would pay nothing.

This is the part Judge Cote was worried about: if Apple wins just a part of the appeal, even on a very technical issue that simply results in a new trial, then Apple only has to pay $50 million to the consumer fund, plus $10 million to the States and $10 million to the lawyers for the class. That is a significantly worse deal for consumers, and it could end up creating a situation where Apple has been found, conclusively, to be liable for antitrust action, and yet walks away paying only a fraction of the apparent damages.  $50 million for consumers is chump change for a company with $160 billion in cash on hand. It’s probably not enough to truly deter them from violating antitrust laws again as soon as they have the chance.

If we want to keep the e-book market lawful and competitive, companies like Apple need more than a slap on the wrist and a suggestion that they behave better next time. We’ll see whether Judge Cote approves the settlement proposal.

*The list of publishers accused of collusion includes Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan.

**Here’s Apple Proposed Settlement (a PDF).

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The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Short Novel or An Inflated Novella

Storied Life of AJ FikryA.J. Fikry, the title character of Gabrielle Zevin’s slim novel, is a thirty-nine year-old, lonely bookseller at Island Books. He will only stock books which meet his high standards for literary content. As he explains to Amelia Loman, the new Knightly Press representative:

I do not like postmodernism, postapocalyptic settings, postmortem narrators, or magic realism. I rarely respond to supposedly clever formal devices, multiple fonts, pictures where they shouldn’t be—basically, gimmicks of any kind. I find literary fiction about the Holocaust or any other major world tragedy to be distasteful—nonfiction only, please. I do not like genre mashups à la the literary detective novel or the literary fantasy… I do not like children’s books, especially ones with orphans, and I prefer not to clutter my shelves with young adult. I do not like anything over four hundred pages or under one hundred fifty pages. I am repulsed by ghostwritten novels by reality television stars, celebrity picture books, sports memoirs, movie tie-in editions, novelty items, and—I imagine this goes without saying–vampires. [The list goes on and on]

With A.J.’s taste, it’s hard to believe he finds anything worthy enough to grace the shelves of the store he started with his wife, the more socially-inclined half who died in a car accident. How is his independent bookstore going to survive in the increasingly competitive bookselling world? As Amelia tells him, tearfully on her way out, “[with] this backward way of thinking, there won’t be an Island Books before too long.”

But A.J. isn’t in the right mindset to care. He’s barely hanging onto life after his wife’s death. He’s an eccentric man with a tragic past who happens to have a very big heart underneath his cold exterior.

I loved the first 50% of this book for its quirky, endearing characters and the sweet story, but I wish The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry had stopped there (at the end of the chapter named after Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find). The rest of the novel felt rushed, as it sped through time and tied up loose ends by focusing on too many people and subplots, including one about the stolen copy of Edgar Allen Poe’s Tamerlane and a fraudulent memoir à la James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces.* The extra characters and storylines either needed more development to make them worthwhile, thus resulting in a novel longer than 273 pages, or they needed to be cut entirely, halving the book.**

The second half of the book took me forever to read, partly because my real-life was too distracting last week (with work deadlines and my twins’ camp show, which was lovely), and partly because it just felt superfluous to me (I wouldn’t have minded a few loose ends). Nevertheless, I’m glad I powered through it, and that I read this novel in the first place, which I probably never would’ve picked up had it not been for The Fellowship of the Worms read-along at Words for Worms (thanks, Katie!).***

A.J. Fikry’s “storied life” reminds us that there are many ways to form a family, including through blood, marriage, adoption, and even shared interests, like books. This novel made me think about the last time I set foot in a bookstore, which was a long time ago. In my area, the indie bookstores disappeared a decade or more ago, and the large chains are following suit. I am primarily an e-book reader now.

I love e-books for the freedom that comes with them—i.e., the ability to read a wide selection of books instantaneously and to carry around my entire library wherever I go—but, naturally, A.J. hates them. He believes they’re destroying his business, ruining literary culture, and enabling readers who have “bad taste” to “read crap.” He says:

Everyone thinks they have good taste, but most people do not have good taste. In fact, I’d argue that most people have terrible taste. When left to their own devices—literally their own devices—they read crap and they don’t know the difference.

Well, of course, a snobby (but still lovable) bookseller like A.J. would think readers need him to help them choose books because they can’t trust their own taste.

Personally, I don’t care what a person’s reading, as long as they’re reading something, but maybe A.J. has a point. Independent booksellers who understand the tastes of their community (often unlike the massive chain stores that just stock national bestsellers) can certainly help us separate the wheat from the chaff. Book blogs are important for recommending books–I rely on several of them–but they (we) can’t entirely replace professional booksellers, because most of us don’t have the time, resources, or incentive to tailor recommendations to individuals or to survey all of the new releases across a wide variety of genres. I do this as a hobby; it’s not my profession.

What I’d love to have in my neighborhood to complement the expertise at our local library is a co-op bookstore. I’d pay a membership fee to browse selected titles and receive recommendations from people dedicated to books that appeal to my community. I’d love to attend readings and author events in my neighborhood, and I’d love to have the ability to connect with real-life readers in addition to the “virtual” ones that I’m lucky enough to meet through this blog. It’s too late for me to go back to buying primarily paper books—though I do buy them occasionally—but I’d be happy to buy e-books through a local seller. It might be hard to compete with Amazon’s prices, but I’d pay more per e-book to support a business that is part of my community.****
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*The charlatan responsible for the memoir defends herself by saying, “All the things in it are still emotionally true even if they aren’t literally so.” For my thoughts on consumer fraud in fiction (under U.S. law), see J.K. Rowling as “Robert Galbraith”: Is It Consumer Fraud? (I briefly mention A Million Little Pieces in this post, but its focus is on the fake military experience in the biography of Robert Galbraith).

**The advertising material online lists the book as being 273 pages long. I read the e-book, which doesn’t have page numbers.

***Have you read this novel? If so, please check out Katie’s Fellowship of the Worms to join the discussion on The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry.

****Not that I find Amazon particularly troubling. See What’s Troubling About Amazon?and Did Apple Leave Amazon’s Kindle “In The Dust”?

 

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The Mockingbird Next Door: A Parasitic Memoir?

TKaMB_cold metal and soft pages_misfortuneofknowing blog

The Mockingbird Next Door, Marja Mills’ memoir about the “great friendship” she developed with To Kill a Mockingbird’s Harper Lee and her sister, hit bookshelves this week amid controversy. Lee has released a statement saying that “any book purporting to be with my cooperation is a falsehood.” She even suggests that Mills’ “true mission” in befriending her family was to write this book, a realization that she says left her feeling “hurt, angry, and saddened, but not surprised.”

It’s heartbreaking (no matter how you look at it).

Harper Lee, who published her only novel in 1960, has shied away from the public spotlight for decades. It’s hard to believe that someone with such a reputation for reclusion* would open her door to a journalist like Marja Mills, particularly when, as The Mockingbird Next Door’s advertising materials state, Lee turned away other journalists who have “trekked to [Lee’s] hometown of Monroeville, Alabama.”

For such a reclusive person, though, Lee has been in the headlines quite often lately.

As I discussed in When Our Literary Heroes Become Victims, Lee sued her former agent last year for allegedly breaching his fiduciary duties and manipulating her into signing away the copyright to her classic novel. The case settled a few months later.

She was also in the news for filing a trademark application for the four words in the title of her book. Last fall, with the application still pending, she filed a lawsuit against her hometown museum, a museum dedicated to the area she immortalized in her work, because they were selling clothing and merchandise bearing the words she made famous.

Now we have this public statement about an unauthorized book about her life (and an earlier statement from 2011, when Penguin acquired the Mills’ book). Lee’s version of events suggests that Mills is nothing more than a journalist trying to find fame (and royalties) by exploiting a beloved, elderly literary hero and her centenarian sister. In some ways, Lee’s story is similar to what she said about her former agent and about what she said about her hometown museum, situations that became the basis for litigation.**

In this situation, though, based on what I know from the media reports, I don’t believe Lee has any viable legal claims against Mills and her publisher, Penguin. Lee can’t stop Mills from writing truthfully about her own experiences, about what she saw and heard in her time around Lee and her sister. Even if the book portrays Lee in an unfairly negative light — which I doubt is the case — Lee would still have considerable difficulty prevailing in a defamation suit. Generally speaking, defamation law protects private individuals from untrue accusations more than it protects public individuals, who, like Lee, have a big enough “microphone” to fight defamation in the court of public opinion.

That ‘court of public opinion’ is what Lee is using now to counter what she believes is essentially an unauthorized biography — only the effect of her public statements, which have been picked up by virtually every major news outlet, might actually increase the sales of Mills’ book. Controversy sells, unless it results in the loss of a publishing contract (Remember Paula Deen?). Mills’ publisher released a statement supporting the book, saying, “Mills’ memoir is a labor of love, and Marja Mills has done an extraordinary job. We look forward to sharing her story of the wise and wonderful Lee sisters with readers.”

I had considered reading The Mockingbird Next Door, wanting insight into the author behind one of my favorite novels.*** Not only do I have multiple “soft page” editions of To Kill a Mockingbird, but I also have the recently released “cold metal” e-book version (why did it take so long?).

But, in light of the controversy, I’ll probably never read Mills’ book. Whatever the truth is about how she obtained access to Ms. Lee, even the possibility that Mills exploited Lee and her sister renders The Mockingbird Next Door unpalatable.

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*Really, “reclusivity” should be a word.

**I was actually sympathetic to the hometown Museum because (1) as a legal matter, I think Lee shouldn’t be able to trademark the four words in the title or the use of the title with regard to clothing (the museum initially opposed Lee’s trademark application, but ultimately they withdrew their opposition while settling the lawsuit); and (2) the museum’s public mission is to preserve the area’s history, to which To Kill a Mockingbird is inextricably linked. That’s quite different from Mills’ purported agenda, if Lee’s allegations are true, resulting in a product that is significantly more personal than the museum’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” memorabilia.

***For my thoughts on the novel (rather than on Lee’s recent legal battles), see (1) Revisiting the “Soft Pages” of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, (2) Our Morbid Curiosity: Watching “Poor Devils” (Or Maybe Just “Devils”) on Trial, (3) We Were All Children Once (Even Lawyers).

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History: Without An Imagination, It’s Only “Old Rocks”

Misfortune of Knowing_Abbey from 2006In Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer’s The Grand Tour Or The Purloined Coronation Regalia, the sequel to Sorcery & Cecelia Or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot,* ancient artifacts might look like nothing much, but in the right wizard’s hands, they can change the course of human history.

I’m sure that many people can sympathize with the sentiment that, as one (minor) character put it as she stood before an ancient temple: “Old rocks are not at all fun.” Even one of our main characters, Cecy Tarleton (née Rushton), thinks it’s a “rather unimpressive ruin.” Meanwhile, her father, Arthur Rushton, who recommended she and her husband James visit the site, “hasn’t much regard for appearances. He’s only interested in history.”

Mar is a RobotHistorians like Arthur see more in old rocks and masonry than meets the eye. Just as my daughters use their imaginations to create a robot from a stack of cardboard boxes, history-lovers use their imaginations to reconstruct the past from historical evidence. They envision the people who lived in those ancient places, piecing together how they lived and what impact their present continues to have on our present. With the discovery of new original sources—or of new insights into known sources—historians re-imagine the past, trying to get as close to what “really happened” as they can.

Knowing that “the thoughts we record today will become the treasured historical documents of the future,” Arthur Rushton presents his niece Kate with a diary, in which she chronicles her honeymoon. Since Sorcery & Cecelia, Kate has become Lady Schofield, having married Thomas, the “mysterious Marquis.” In The Grand Tour, Kate and Cecy are taking a joint wedding journey with their husbands through continental Europe. Their plans suddenly change when a mysterious package puts them on a quest to stop the ruthless rise of an empire built on historically-informed magic.

Kate and CecyIn The Grand Tour, Wrede and Stevermer once again bring to life the Regency Era—albeit with wizards. It’s an enjoyable sequel, even though it lacks much of the charm of the original novel. In particular, the intelligence and independence that made Cecy and Kate so endearing in Sorcery & Cecelia is largely missing from The Grand Tour, as the two young women settle into the confines of married life in a fictional version of the Regency Era.

While the first novel is based on juicy letters between Cecy and Kate, the second novel tells the story through Kate’s personal diary and Cecy’s formal deposition to the British Ministry of Magic, the War Office, and the Foreign Office. As a result, we receive a more intimate look into Kate’s life than into Cecy’s, and we find that Thomas’ surly exterior from the first novel remains intact. Kate loves him, despite his “bossy and devious and obstinate” demeanor, but I didn’t, and I found myself wishing that Kate would challenge Thomas’ controlling behavior more directly and consistently than she did. I liked James Tarleton more than I liked Thomas, perhaps because I knew less about him due to Cecy’s more formal description of the underlying events.

Thankfully, in a satisfying twist at the end, the reliance on Regency Era gender stereotypes hinders the group’s ability to solve the mystery, hopefully teaching an important lesson to everyone involved. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that by Book 3 in this series (published in 2006), Cecy and Kate have found their footing in their marriages and exert more independence from their husbands. Such behavior might be “inappropriate” and unlikely for married women of their social class in the early 19th Century, but let’s not forget that this series of novels is fiction, not history.

*I discussed the first novel in this series in Entertainment for the Cost of a Stamp (How Much Is That Now?).

Image: Kate’s description of a “maimed old abbey church” in France reminded me of England’s Hailes Abbey, which I visited in 2006.

 

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“I wish Juliet Stevenson Would Read Supreme Court Decisions To Me”

So Mr. A.M.B. said, having just finished listening to the audiobook version of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.* It’s narrated by Juliet Stevenson, whom many of us know as Mrs. Elton from the 1996 movie version of Emma or as Keira Knightley’s mother from Bend It Like Beckham.

Screenshot of Jane Eyre audiobookStevenson’s expressive and often soothing British voice couldn’t possibly mitigate the pain I felt while reading the U.S. Supreme Court opinions this term, but my husband has a point. Her voice is phenomenal.

I only know of it from her films. She has narrated many of my favorite novels, including Jane Eyre, Persuasion, and North and South, but I’ve only experienced these books on an e-reader or on paper.** I’ve never listened to an audiobook, except for snippets of the audiobooks that help my three little night-owls fall asleep (A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh read by Judi Dench, Geoffrey Palmer, Stephen Fry, and others is particularly wonderful).

According to the Pew Research Institute’s Snapshot of Reading in America in 2013, 14% of surveyed adults listened to at least one audiobook last year. The survey revealed that “adults with higher levels of education are more likely to have read audiobooks than those who did not attend college” and that audiobook listeners have the most diverse reading habits in terms of consuming books in a variety of formats (audio, e-book, and print).

So why am I not one of these “diverse” consumers of literary material?

There are at least three reasons: (1) I am too impatient to listen to an audiobook; (2) I hate to drive; and (3) I absorb information better in print (whether on an e-reader or on paper).

As Mr. A.M.B. mentioned in his review earlier this week of Jane Eyre, the unabridged Stevenson narration is close to 20 hours long! It’s a long book, but it wouldn’t take me anywhere near that many hours to read it. Without a long car trip during which I can’t read my Kindle—and really, I don’t do that much driving—I can’t justify spending that much time on a single novel (as much as Jane Eyre may deserve an endless amount of time focused on it!).

Plus, I’m not a good listener, at least when I have to listen to one type of content for any extended period of time. I am easily distracted, and I don’t retain the information. Lectures in college and law school were pointless for me — it was in one ear and out the other — unless I took copious notes by hand.

So, audiobooks aren’t a good choice for me. Unlike some people who prefer to read the words on the page, though, I don’t think that listening is an inherently inferior way to consume literature. As a Forbes article from 2011 pointed out, there’s no clear scientific evidence that audiobooks are necessarily worse for comprehension or retention. Audiobooks might give people an opportunity to listen when they can’t read (like when they’re driving a car), and they may be ideal for readers who aren’t really in the mindset to read.

That supports what Mr. A.M.B. said: he’d never listened to an audiobook until he’d had a week during which he spent over a dozen hours either driving a car or crammed on an airplane (feeling “too tired and uncomfortable to read, but not tired or comfortable enough to sleep”), creating a perfect opportunity to listen to Juliet Stevenson’s rendition of Jane Eyre. The audiobook made Mr. A.M.B.’s car and plane rides far more tolerable and introduced him to a classic work of fiction.

Who cares what the format is as long as it encourages people to enjoy literature?

*He listened to the audiobook and also read parts of the e-book version of Jane Eyre.

**For more from this Blog on Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, see (1) Is Persuasion Better with Age?; (2) Jane Austen Teaches Science, (3) North and South or Margaret Hale: How Much Control Should Authors Have?

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