Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Reading through Radio

Hi hi pals!

There are really two major benefits to the sudden onset of Spring:

  1. My flat is no longer the coldest place in the known universe.
  2. I can, after a 7 month winter, finally get back to enjoying what is possibly the best reading location I have ever had at my disposal.
Ten Housepoints to whoever can guess the band in the photo...
And, yes, we deal exclusively in Housepoints here.

I won't lie. This windowsill was the main selling point for me in the flat hunt and, on the two days a year when the sun actually shines in the UK, it is my favourite place to be. So, with tea in hand, this is where you would have found me this morning. Not reading but (convenient connection to the subject of this post) listening to the radio.

When I talk to people about my reading addiction, they will typically respond in two ways. Either they will look at me with a smile of solidarity and understanding or, more likely, back slowly away as though I have told them that my happiest moment was Michael Sheen spitting on my during a production of Hamlet (true, by the way). Assuming that these responses have less to do with me than general feelings about reading (I am clinging to that hope), I think there is something of a divide and misconception about what literature has to offer. I am definitely not going to be attempting to explore this theme here. But I have noticed that the number one reason given to me by those who don't spend much time with their head in a book is 'it just feels like too much effort at the end of a long day'. Now, I completely sympathise with this - and truly, I love an episode of 'Made in Chelsea' as much as the next person (I know I've just dropped 20 places on the awesome scale). But there must be a middle ground for those who feel that they don't have the time or inclination to pick up a book - and I think I might have found it.

Enter BBC Radio (aka taking the cardiac arrest out of the £180 annual BBC licensing fee). I'm aware that many of the people reading this are outside of the UK - so let me begin by saying that BBC Radio is available to everyone worldwide, with a catalogue of programmes available through BBC Radio iPlayer (although programmes are typically only available for one week after the initial broadcast). While this gives you access to a huge variety of shows, it is the literary serialisations that I want to mention here. Earlier today, I was listening to Episode 2 of a BBC Radio 4Extra dramatisation of 'The Idiot' by Fyodor Dostoevsky (played out over four episodes this week). This is not a book that I would have picked up myself and, indeed, most of the dramatisations that I listen to on the radio are of works that I would never think to read. But there is something wonderful about hearing these books acted out (whether they are on your 'To Read' list or not). Serving as a half-way house for the imagination - an option somewhere between reading and watching the TV - you are still afforded the opportunity of applying your own literary interpretation and mapping the settings and characters in your mind. It is, essentially, reading through radio.

I know most book blogs do reviews of audiobooks and I think this is fantastic. But an audiobook habit is undoubtedly an expensive one to pursue. Radio is a great option - totally free, accessible wherever you are in the world, and (with the wonders of modern technology) available in a back catalogue. So, for those who feel that time is lacking or that reading is the last thing they want to do after a stint in the office, I would challenge you to give the radio a try. And even if, like me, you don't feel whole without a book in your hand, see what discoveries you can make through the radio. It's a great way to find new things and explore works you aren't naturally drawn to. 

So a big thank you to BBC Radio for sorting out my sunny window-sill situated mornings. You and 'a particular hot beverage that shall remain nameless' are what make me proud to be British.


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