Friday, April 24, 2009

Pity The Blind and Dyslexic

....and not for the obvious reasons. The other night our book club (well all two of us) volunteered to be recorded at Reading for the Blind and Dyslexic. I was so excited to try this, and not least because it got me out of the house, childless. After all, if you consider a blog self-indulgent then you can imagine how happy I was to have my voice recorded for posterity! Everyone's a winner.

I actually had a blast, but for all the wrong reasons. Driving there I imagined myself reading a chapter of the latest NY Times bestseller, or cosying in with a well-thumbed Maeve Binchy. I figured that would probably be our audience, fluffy-haired myopic old ladies wanting a good yarn. At first glance, everything confirmed my preconceptions. The place was comfortably shabby in that North of England Methodist Hall kind of way. A huge urn of acrid coffee, mismatched mugs and peeling 'see how much we haven't raised' thermometer posters. I was instantly at home. It occurred to me that fundraising in the hallowed Hollywood playground of Santa Barbara usually involves fine wines, seared Ahi canapes and a silent auction of 2 weeks in a private villa in Capri. This brought me right back to the jumble sales of old. I was in the right place.

Then an implausibly snowy-haired and snaggle-toothed man (hello Britain!) showed us to the wall of books we could choose to read from. I scanned for my Maeve. Nothing. Not even an errant Bill Bryson. It was quickly explained to me that the real users of the facility were dyslexic children who needed textbooks recording.

Crest *falling*.

(as an aside, isn't it rather cruel and unusual punishment to be both dyslexic and have the name of your syndrome be so bloody hard to spell?)

Anyway, there had been rumours that a TC Boyle novel was in the mix earlier that morning, but that TC Boyle himself had snapped that one up. Cheater. Ignoring the textbooks entirely (sorry children!) I weighed my options between a self help manual, because of course, this was America, and a Julian Barnes novel. I picked up 'Nothing to be Frightened Of'. I've actually read several of Barne's novels and while not my usual cup of institutional tea I was willing to have a stab, until the remarkably spritely white-haired man in charge appeared behind my shoulder and whispered 'it's about death!'.

What, and I'm too blonde?

So I panicked and picked a book with a woman on the cover who looked like me. A moron.

And that's how I ended up in a sound booth giving a play-by-play of the 2007 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

I'd picked Diary of a She-Fan, and Lord almighty pick a novel next time you muppet. I'm not a big baseball fan - fortunately I'd heard of Derek Jeter, and I've been to enough baseball games (*two*) to recognize the terms 'innings', 'outs', 'bottom of the ninth' and 'hotdog' etc etc. The players names? Lord have mercy. There I was, manfully ploughing my way through the batting list and the names just got more and more comic. Dear SB Blind and Dyslexic baseball fans. I'm sorry. There are no words. Well, actually there are, lots and lots of words and most of them are like 'Mientkiewicz'. That's right! And if you think that's bad, imagine when I got to the end of the chapter and had to describe in full detail every column of each Major League Baseball Teams batting average statistics for the year.

Next time I'm picking the organic chemistry textbook for a little light reading.


Laura - Are We Nearly There Yet Mummy? said...

I had to laugh.

Did you have a fake 'interested in the subject' voice on throughout?

Expat mum said...

I spent a year doing this in Dallas, reading Agatha Christie and other great books. When I moved to Chicago I looked for the same type of organization and ended up with the text book stuff, only it was university level science - most of which I couldn't even pronounce! I didn't keep it up and felt guilty for years.

Laura - Are We Nearly There Yet Mummy? said...

PS - Apologies, I have tagged you!

*lynne* said...

Hi! Found you while surfing around the ExpatWomen Blog Directory. Coincidentally, I've just started volunteering at RfB&D a few weeks ago: after a fwe weeks of Checking, I recently graduated to Test Reading. It's fun, but when I saw my section had A LOT of corrections when checked, I realise I read too fast and automatically contextually fill in other words than what are on the page. Ooops! Today I'll be reading more, so I'll make it a point to take my time.

btw, so I read part of "Contemporary American Public Discourse", and got to read GWBush's inaugiration speech, and Gloria Steinem's Commencement Address. Then I moved on to "The Creationist Debate" - now THAT was "fun"! Can you say verbose yet complicated runon compound sentences? :p

Both MUCH better than the baseball book you were stuck with, tho, LoL!


Rod Duncan said...

Great article. It made me laugh.

I have recntly completed a tour of readers groups around the East Midlands. One was a 'visually impared' group in Wellingborough Library.

Since then I have had one of my stories produced as an audio book. But at the time I had nothing recorded of my own to share with them.

I spent most of the evening listening in to their discussion of various audio books. Some of them were commercial CDs others had been recorded on a voluntary basis by people offering this service.

Either way it made a huge difference to the members of the group. These books were a lifeline. A window onto another world.

As a dyslexic myself, I do sometimes use audio books. But I can read as fast as the books are read in the recordings, so I don't do this very often.


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