Sunday, January 16, 2005

A Book That Demands to Be Read Aloud

Some books simply cry out to be read aloud. Doing so showcases the richness of the language the author has labored to achieve, along with the book's cadences, images, and nuances of meaning.

I wouldn't dream of reading one of Shakespeare's plays silently, for example. Speaking words written to be spoken on a stage allows one to understand the antiquated phrases, the meaning of which would otherwise be impenetrable to twenty-first-century people.

The Bible, much of it originally written on scrolls carried from place to place and read to groups of people, also is best read out loud. I do so every chance I get.

London: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd is a book which demands to be read aloud. Be warned that you're apt to grow hoarse doing so, though: It's more than 770-pages long. I'm only about one-seventh of the way through it, but I can already tell that I'm going to love this book.

And during a recent jaunt in the family van, I was able to read a bit of it out loud. Whenever we take little trips, I read while my wife drives. So, I read some of London to her.

Ackroyd's narrative is beautiful, bringing varied aspects of London's character alive.

While he covers the history of the city, this really isn't a history, but more of a series of biographical sketches, as the book's subtitle implies.

One of the intriguing things to emerge so far for me, is how similar Ackroyd's picture of London is to that of New York City created by Ric Burns in his wonderful PBS documentary. While the media are completely different and the specifics of the city's histories, both London and New York are places built on the rough-and-tumble of cutthroat commerce. It's intriguing.

Another analogy is the absolute consistency in manners, outlook, and pace extant from the beginnings through to the present in both London and New York. No matter who thinks they may rule these two cities, the wheels of economic activity, the two cities' obsessions, keep grinding on, as incessant as the seasons.

I'm looking forward to reading more of Ackroyd's book and hopefully, will be able to read a lot of it out loud!

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