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Bartleby the Liberated Audiobook

Call me lazy, efficient, or a sneak: I doubled-dipped on this week’s homework and listened to Bartleby the Scrivener, read by Bob Tassinari. Part-time grad students who are full-time workers, amirite? Bartleby was my first Melville and my first audiobook. I’m not the best aural learner, and I rarely read books older than me or authored by men and even more rarely books by white men. We all gotta fight the patriarchy and systemic oppression in whatever ways work for us, right?

The book was published by LibriVox, “Acoustical liberation of books in the public domain.” I love the concept and admire the volunteers who read books. I’m interested in the person who read Bartleby, Bob Tassinari. The page for Tassinari, reader #1571, doesn’t provide any information about him. The way he read Bartleby seemed like an attempt to be “neutral,” with little vocal inflection. The scare quotes, as with last week’s, are intentional. To me, and to many in my profession, “neutrality” is a contested concept, one I can’t just let stand. I wondered if LibriVox has a an anti-performance policy for their readers, but they don’t. Per their About Recording page, they encourage readers to be expressive. So maybe the dry tone was a choice! Do I have to listen to Tassinari’s other reads or find another recording of Bartleby to find out?

I’m tempted to try to find out more about Tassinari, but it seems like there are several Bob and Robert Tassinaris out there, including one who’s dead, and no pages that link any of them to the LibriVox reader. Instead I want to consider the additional authorship of audiobook readers. The consideration might or might not extend to authors who read their own books.  


At this point I stopped and read the Rubery text, “Play It Again, Sam Weller.”


Rubery covers much of the road I was about to go down. He talks about how the pace of reading is controlled by the narrator, not the “auditor.” (“Auditor” in quotes because in this case of its more common meanings: an IRS agent and someone taking a class for free/without getting a grade, rather than a listener or audience member.) Confession: I chose the edition of Bartleby I did because it was half an hour shorter than the other one.

I chose the word “edition” just now instead of version. Rubery references Dolby (George, the Dickens guy, not Ray, the sound system guy) saying that a liberally improvised rendering of a text is a new edition. I’ll go further and posit that even the most faithful oral reproduction is a different edition to a text. In paragraph 16 of last week’s reading, Liu acknowledges readers (of words printed on a page) as interpreters. I extend the same definition to listeners. Readers and listeners alike have moods, races, ethnicities, economic classes, physical well-beings, distractions, and life experience. 

It took me a while to settle into listening. I switched devices, ultimately figured out that I could concentrate better with earbuds (even though I was alone in my apartment), and that if I worked a jigsaw puzzle on my tablet, my attention would be more stable. I mentioned earlier I’m not so much of an aural person, right? Surprisingly, having something to do with my hands and my right brain allowed my left brain to pay attention to Tassinari reading me a nineteenth century story without a single female character. I wonder if more books would get and hold my attention if I listened to them instead of reading them with my eyes? I wonder if it matters that I was reading this book at home, on a couch, well-slept, instead of fatigued on the subway, which is where I do the bulk of my reading of print and ebooks?

PS I love the phrase “semiotic index.”

PPS “Sikes and Nancy” LOL

PPPS I post on Saturdays not because I am an insufferable brown nose overachiever (although it’s possible that I am one), but because Saturday is my designated homework day.

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