Tess, Daphne, Alfred, and Art (Garfunkel)

Soon Lindsay Lohan, Vincente Fox, Imelda Marcos and I will be celebrating our common birthday, though probably not together. Together, Imelda and I could chat about shoes, Lindsay could bring the champagne, and, well, I don’t know about Vincente. He would probably enjoy checking out Lindsay. But I think I’ll stick close to home with my dear family.

Birthdays bring on the gift question, which is hard for me. I have fairly simple tastes. Okay. That’s a lie. I have specific tastes, which is kinda-sorta the same thing.

One gift I’ve been pondering is a year’s subscription to Audible.com. It seems an extravagance to me, paying extra for someone to whisper prose into my ear. I have, in my life, read a great number of books, but listened to very few. The funny thing is–I remember the books I’ve heard much more clearly than the books I’ve read.

I didn’t realize this until about ten years ago when I listened to Thomas Hardy’s TESS OF THE D’URBERVILLES. What a tragic story. Listening to the words of that novel left my mind’s eye free to fully visualize Tess’s life. I know that some would call it melodrama, but the image of Tess at Stonehenge, exhausted, lovely and broken, is as forever burned into my memory as anything I’ve ever imagined. Given that she is a symbolic victim of the vagaries of both desire and the encroaching modern world, hers is hardly an image for our post-feminist era. But I adore her, still.

I listened to a second book that very same week: A book of Daphne Du Maurier’s stories that included THE BIRDS. I’d seen the Hitchcock film, of course. The 75-page story is even more disturbing and impossibly bleak. How strange that Hitchcock moved it from Cornwall to California.

Technically, I must be an aural learner. Such a strange discovery for someone who has been so attached to paper-and-ink books all her life! But in the end, it’s the story, isn’t it? Not the paper. Or the ink. I’m glad that these two stories have stuck with me–in fact had a huge influence on me. It tells me that–if I do get that subscription–I might want to be a little careful about what I choose to listen to.

I wonder what influence TESS had on this guy?

Not only has he read it, he’s kept a written record of every book he’s read since 1968!

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