I read my book last month. Well, I’ve been reading it since October, one edit after another. There were times I became sick of it, times I thought it was terrible, times I thought it was good. The last week of April, I recorded it for the audiobook.
Steven, the engineer from Simon & Schuster, conveniently lives in Nederland, not far from my home. He’s quite the accomplished engineer, having worked on Pet Sounds and Graceland as well other legendary rock and roll albums. He’s recorded books for Ronald Regan, Steve Martin and Charlton Heston, among others – over 3,000 books altogether. I liked him right away, which made me comfortable. We set up a recording studio in the office at my house. Steven covered the desk with a blanket, wrapped a folding divider behind me, and positioned microphones just so.
He had to come back the day after the setup to troubleshoot a few odd electronic interruptions, all eventually traced to Alexa, the girl who eavesdrops on everything said in the house. We cut her lifeline and turned off the furnace and on a cold Monday morning in April, and I started reading my book aloud.
I’d have to take a break every few hours and turn the heat back on for 30 minutes or so. Did I mention we got 8 inches of snow that week? All in all, it never got too uncomfortable in the house. I think I’d rather turn off the HVAC and lose heat in April than air conditioning in July. Besides, the warm sweater soothed my soul, which needed soothing.
I wept. I cried as I read the poem Nicole wrote for me as I began working on the book. I wept through the entire introduction, which ends with the telling of our wedding night. I cried so much we had to record those two again, after I finished everything else. Steven was comfortable with me shedding tears.
The first fifteen chapters of the book are the sequential story of my life thus far. The last several of those chapters are when I cried the most. A few times I began sobbing as soon as I finished the last line of a chapter. Stephen, listening to every line, would suggest we take a break.
I have never listened to audiobooks. I work on writing sermons in my head or memorizing them while I’m running. I listen to NPR in the car. I’ve never found the time (or desire) to listen to an audiobook. But after recording my memoir, I think everyone should listen to a book, particularly a memoir read by the author. So much comes out in the human voice that cannot be seen on the page. The voice shows more than it tells, which is a good thing.
I liked the story, and the telling of it. I thought the editors had done a good job helping the writer (who would be me) figure out what was needed and what was extraneous. The book had a nice flow. I thought if I was just the voice artist recording the book and not its author, I would still enjoy reading the book and might recommend it to my friends.
While I was reading my book, I realized the story is universal. In the dedication I write, “For all who believe the call toward authenticity is sacred, and holy, and for the greater good.” The particulars are mine, but the call onto what Joseph Campbell calls the Hero’s Journey is universal. It is the landscape of all restless souls who want to make a difference in this short pause between two great mysteries. I believe my story might ease you into your story. Listening to it might accomplish that even more effectively than reading it.
This living is serious business, and we are all pilgrims, called by our better angels onto a sacred journey. As I read my book aloud, I prayed it might call you more deeply into your journey. We all need every bit of help we can get to live fully into our true selves.
And so it goes.