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Diane Ackerman

Diane Ackerman

"Ackerman enjoys reading to an audience when she’s on a tour, and has narrated some of her work for audio. 'I’ve been delighted by the narrators and marvel at their skillfulness.'”

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Talking with Diane Ackerman

Diane Ackerman believes that in times of pain or uncertainty, even in cheerful times, “we need to find enriching ways to transcend.” For Ackerman--poet, essayist, and author of such inspiring and passionate works as AN ALCHEMY OF MIND: The Marvel and Mystery of the Brain and THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE--transcendence has always meant losing herself in the wonders of nature. Several years ago, her husband was gravely ill, and she was uncertain whether or not he would recover. “In order to find pockets of calm and continuity,” she tells us, “first thing each morning I’d stroll around the yard, noticing the dew or frost, watching sleeping bees, listening to the building crescendo of birdsong, and then watching the colorful spectacle of the sun levitating in the sky. It was always there, right where I left it, always on time.” During that time she made notes in her journal. “I did a lot of research about what I’d observed. I thought and reflected about life and death, abundance and loss.”

These miraculous morning observations led to her most recent book, DAWN LIGHT, chapters of which, she says, were written “in gusts of reverie at dawn. The book is really a series of small astonishments and secular hallelujahs, a blend of the poetic, scientific, spiritual, and commonplace: a rediscovery of dawn.” She hopes readers “may see the world a little differently, understand humans a shade more, and find it easier to appreciate some of nature’s everyday miracles.”

Does a busy and prolific author who has the distinction of having a molecule named after her (Dianeackerone) listen to audiobooks? Ackerman says, “I listen to audiobooks all the time--in the car or in airports or on planes.” Right now she’s listening to Henry James’s PORTRAIT OF A LADY, and prior to that it was Edith Wharton’s AGE OF INNOCENCE. While Ackerman appreciates audiobooks, she feels that some books have to be read on the page. “Faulkner or Beckett, for example.” Although she’s listening to Henry James, she plans to read the print version next. “Listening to a book, you don’t have time to linger over complex passages or spend a long while admiring turns of phrase. Also, I miss underlining my favorite sections.”

Ackerman doesn’t read aloud when she’s writing, but she does enjoy reading to an audience when she’s on a book tour, and she has narrated some of her own work for audio (A NATURAL HISTORY OF LOVE and A NATURAL HISTORY OF THE SENSES, which was an AUDIOFILE Earphones winner). However, she didn’t consider recording DAWN LIGHT herself. “I’ve been delighted by the narrators and always marvel at their skillfulness.” After her DAWN LIGHT book tour, Ackerman is looking forward to some time for “fun in the garden.”--S.J. Henschel

DEC 09/JAN 10
© AudioFile 2009, Portland, Maine

Photo © Toshi Otsuki

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