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Kes: I don't know if the statistics have radically altered in recent years but, as I understand it, approximately half of the people who use quote special formats unquote such as those found on have print disabilities, such as dyslexia, rather than visual impairments. The statistics are not trivial for, as this blog post mentions, about ten percent of all student-age children may be dyslexic, and it bears no relation to intelligence (for example, research suggests that Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein may have been dyslexic). It bothers me that I still hear so many people dismiss readers who use text-to-speech as "not *really* reading," because such an attitude not only is a sort of put-down, but completely overlooks all the active cognitive elements which the reader is still performing, such as use of symbolic thinking, active imagining, making connections with other books and personal experience, making hypotheses about what will happen next, visualizing characters and action; reading by listening is far from a passive act.
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From the quote of the day

Everybody else is working to change, persuade, tempt and control them. The best readers come to fiction to be free of all that noise.
- Philip Roth

The author of American Pastoral was born on this day in 1933.
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Kes: I picked out my favorites from
40 Inspiring Quotes About Reading
but now I'm seriously wondering how bookworms ever managed to get areputation for being quiet and well-behaved--a more misbehaving, troublemaking, attitude-enabled group I've rarely contemplated.

“If one reads enough books one has a fighting chance. Or better, one’s chances of survival increase with each book one reads.” --Sherman Alexie

“Be awesome! Be a book nut!” --Dr. Seuss

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that
tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” --James Baldwin

“My alma mater was books, a good library…. I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.” --Malcolm X

“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.” --Victor Hugo

“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” --Confucius

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” --Oscar Wilde

“When the Day of Judgment dawns and people, great and small, come marching in to receive their heavenly rewards, the Almighty will gaze upon the mere bookworms and say to Peter, “Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them. They have loved reading.” --Virginia Woolf

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” --Jorge Luis Borges

“Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.” --Nora Ephron
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Kes: This article manages to sum up in a relatively small word count the three major distinctions which paper fetishist repeatedly make between the audiobook and the "book-book."

Wired for Sound.
By John Schwartz

1. "When I talk with one friend or another about books we've both read, I often have to admit that I read the particular work in audio form. Although I'm not especially perceptive, it's pretty easy to translate my interlocutor's expression. It's a blend of surprise, condescension and an unmistakable dash of
'that's cheating."
]Kes: although, in my case, most people will say, in a gracious tone, that of course I read books in audio format for accessibility reasons, implying that some reasons have more validity than others.]

2. "A prime skeptic is my wife, Jeanne, who also happens to be the principal recommender of the new books I read. She is not unalterably opposed to aural reading; in fact, she's a fan of recorded lectures. But when it comes to fiction, she insists on holding the printed text in her hand. Also, she has a problem with that alien Other -- the intervening reader who takes command of the entire text.

I want the voices in my head for the characters,' she once said. I don't want that person in my ear.

We developed a retronym: if I slipped a book -- the kind with covers and pages -- into my backpack for the train or to get started on at home, that meant I was reading a 'book-book. Of course the term itself reinforced her belief -- I won't call it a prejudice -- against audio reading. It was firmest in
the case of novels, which she thought I couldn't possibly absorb, especially if they were complex narratives. Not that we argued or fought over this. I would never say such a thing. Out loud.
[Kes: This reminds me of my orientation for grad school, where we went around and introduced ourselves and our interests in media. I was second-to-last, and mentioned my fascinationw ith the intersection of books and media, such as audiobooks andnew media formats. The final student spoke right after me, and her first sentence was, "I'm not like the rest of you: I read books." I guess I read baloney slices?]

3. "At this point it occurred to me that what divides us on this issue may involve more than our preferred methods of reading. It may, in fact, be a matter of how we each best absorb difficult material. When I was in college I always got more out of lectures than out of the reading, and now I work in a trade, journalism, that is largely about listening to the spoken voice. And this, in turn, led me to wonder whether I'm wired in some way to listen rather than read.

And so I did what reporters are trained to do. I consulted an expert, in this case Howard Gardner, a professor of cognition and education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Gardner is celebrated for his theory of multiple intelligences, which holds that there are many different kinds of smarts and learning. In his work, Gardner has parsed linguistic intelligence from logical-mathematical and musical intelligence, and has also described other
kinds of intelligence linked to interpersonal relationships and the body.

In a recent e-mail, I asked Gardner whether his theory could apply to an affinity for audiobooks. I get tremendous pleasure from audiobooks,' I wrote. My wife gets none at all, and spends her evenings holding by-God books.

Gardner responded quickly. This is very funny,' he said. Reading approaches in his marriage were the exact opposite of those in mine: his wife 'loves audiobooks and listens to them endlessly,' while 'I never listen to audiobooks. He is married to Ellen Winner, whose resume resembles his. She is chairwoman of the psychology department at Boston College, and a senior associate at Project Zero, an arts-education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Gardner suggested I speak with both of them that evening by phone.

When I called, Winner said she listens to books while exercising, grocery shopping or waiting in long lines at the airport. And what kinds of books? Great literature, classics that I would not have the time or patience to read if they were in print. She has happily worked the treadmill to 'Bleak House' and 'Daniel Deronda,' 'Crime and Punishment' and 'War and Peace.

I want to just sink into a fictional world,' she said. She could have been speaking for me.

Gardner, for his part, sounded a lot more like Jeanne. I like to provide my own soundtracks in life,' he said, adding that he loves listening to classical music, and not as a means of escape. I'm not trying to get away from anything,' he said.
[Kes: so people who read audiobooks are reading for escapist reasons, rather than the more intellectually-challenging immersive experience? And how does what the wife said about "sinking in" to a book different from the husband's "immersive"? Isn'the real issue that book-book types want to keep insisting that what they do is different from what audiobook types do, that your preferred format not only says something about your identity, but that it reflects a different aesthetic, a different kind of reading?]

As a practical matter, Gardner went on, he wants to read at his own pace, and to be able to flip back to earlier passages -- no easy feat on an iPod. To
me, reading is something I do with my eyes,' he said.

At times during our conversation, the couple seemed to grow somewhat heated. Not that I would call it arguing.

The truth, it seems, is that the way we read, and our reasons for loving or disliking audiobooks, are deeply personal. They are expressions of self, so
tied to who we are. If you belittle the way I read, you're belittling me.

When I pressed Gardner on whether multiple-intelligence issues might enter into these differences, he said he had not heard of any research in the area.

We don't have enough of a sample to make a decision,' he said, 'but there could be something in that.
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Jesse the K sent me this review from the NY Times (warning: it has many spoilers, so don't read the rest of the review until after you read the book), and it perfectly describes how I've been wandering about trying to find a book which will be as satisfying as _Reamde_. I tried A. S. Byatt's _Ragnorok_, but that was a mistake: reading Byatt right after Stephenson feels like trying to share a space with a neat freak who keeps looking at your dinner and asking are you really going to eat that?

Reamde - By Neal Stephenson - Book Review -

Let us say that novelists are like unannounced visitors. While Norman Mailer and Saul Bellow pound manfully on the door, Jonathan Franzen and Zadie Smith knock politely, little preparing you for the emotional ferociousness with which they plan on making themselves at home. Neal Stephenson, on the other hand, shows up smelling vaguely of weed, with a bunch of suitcases. Maybe he can crash for a couple of days? Two weeks later he is still there. And you cannot get rid of him. Not because he is unpleasant but because he is so interesting. Then one morning you wake up and find him gone. You are relieved, a little, but you also miss him. And you wish he’d left behind whatever it was he was smoking, because anything that allows a human being to write six 1,000-page novels in 12 years is worth the health and imprisonment risk.
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LJ user tasha18 and I were exchanging some comments regarding
"The Lifecycle of Software Objects" by Ted Chiang
and she mentioned that she found it strange that the AI in the story could obviously learn, but their use of a kind of pidgin English never progressed to the kidn of language they exchanged with the people with whom they had relationships.

I myself found the statement that the AI never learned to read because no one ever read bedtime stories to them when they were "children" immensely odd, as I never had anyone read to me as a child and yet I turned out to be something of a bookworm, and I'm certain I am not the only example of this.

It seems as if, in the case of language, Chiang is implying that AI can't learn because they can't change how they are programmed to speak, yet, in regard to reading, Chiang seems to switch to implying that reading is culturally learned.

Can anyone comment on Chiang's reasoning for his depictions of learning in this story? Is it connected to real theories regarding learning and/or AI?
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Kes: From Inside Higher Ed comes this article by a psychologist on why fiction is so appealing. I was hoping he would use more precise terms and concepts, but I will also note that he dismisses horror and S&M as operating by some principle other than that which he proposes in his article, so I'm a little dubious about how his biases shape his argument.
Still, this is definitely Readercon territory.

The Pleasures of Imagination
By Paul Bloom
kestrell: (Default)
Via the MindHacks blog

Botox may diminish the experience of emotion

block quote start
Botox, which is used by millions of people every year to reduce wrinkles and frown lines on the forehead, works by paralyzing the muscles involved in producing
facial expressions. A study
due to be published in the journal Psychological Science suggests that by doing so, it impairs the ability to process the emotional content of language,
and may diminish the quality of emotional experiences.

....The researchers found that botox slowed the reading of the sentences containing sad emotional content, which, as the earlier work showed, would normally
cause the frown muscle to contract. The reading time for the happy and neutral sentence was the same in both sessions. The researchers assume that the increase in reading time means that paralysis of the frown muscles hindered the participants' understanding of the emotional content of the sad sentences.
They also argue that their findings support the hypothesis that feedback from the muscles involved in producing facial expressions is critical in regulating emotional experiences.
block quote end
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I feel really conflicted by the idea of "neuro lit crit"
in that, on the one hand, I feel it has the potential to be terribly reductive regarding the act of reading, but on the other, I believe that reading is one of the most mentally complex things we do with our brains, and I'm intrigued by how something so abstract can be experienced so vividly.
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from this morning's NPR morning show
At a little over seven minutes, there is only so much discussion that can happen in a segment, but Gaiman makes some nice points, such as reading on audio is not a new thing and that some critics's definitions of reading composed explicitly to rule out audiobooks as a legitimate form of reading are not always very robust.
I myself would often prefer the text version of a book because I find listening to someone else's voice reading to me changes the experience, but I will listen to books read by particular readers--Neil Gaiman for one, Doug Bradley for another--and I also love audiobooks that play with the form, either intentionally or accidnetally. The first audiobook I fell in love with was, okay, Tim Curry reading Anne Rice's _Cry to Heaven_, a magnificent audio recording with bits of Italian opera included. But there was also Neal Stephenson's _The Diamond Age_, because I thought having my computer read me a book about a book which read itself aloud to a little girl was the stuff of pure fantasy. Another great audiobook: _Soon I Will Be Invincible_, which alternates chapters between a comics-style supervillain and a new female superhero, and the voice actors were so incredible that I can't even imagine the print book being better.

Do other people have audiobooks with which they have fallen in love?
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Has anyone written about this topic? I was reading another rant about
the lost pleasure of book browsing
which frames the mail-order purchase of books as a relatively new innovation, and yet I seem to have assimilated the idea that in past centuries many established book stores sent out catalogs and did mail-order business. In a history of witchcraft which I recently read, it was at one point mentioned that, for those who lived anywhere other than large cities such as London, they would have had to have ordered their books on the occult from London bookshops. And certainly through the early twentieth century American readers were still often ordering books from across the pond.
Yes, browsing bookstores is a pleasure, but it seems poring over catalogs of books is also a well-established pleasure, and I know some booksellers still send out such paper catalogs.


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