Ann Patchett loves audiobooks. The critically acclaimed novelist credits one of her best friends, A. Manette Ansay (VINEGAR HILL), with getting her interested in them. “When I’m reading,” Patchett says, “my attention span is irregular. Depending on how much pressure I’m under or how tired I am, I’m going to skim. I’m going to read some parts faster than others, but with audiobooks I’m perfectly consistent, and my mind doesn’t wander.”
Patchett had a recent revelation regarding audiobooks. “I would listen to an audiobook when I was going on a long trip. I love to listen to them when I drive. I thought that’s what they were for. What Manette taught me to do is just listen to them all the time. Listen to them around town. Listen to them when I’m walking the dog in the morning. I listen to them when I cook or clean the bathtub. Even if it’s just in 10- or 15-minute segments, it really works. I need to be active and listening.”
With her busy schedule, Patchett tends to listen to audiobooks she wouldn’t normally read, books that are very contemporary. “I’m guarded about my reading time, which is so hard to find. I’m much more open about my listening time.” UNLESS, by Carol Shields, is a perfect example. She had a copy of the book by her bedside for months without reading it. Then she received it in audiobook form, “and I absolutely cherished it.” She fell in love with Joan Allen’s performance. “I think she should read all the books. The way she handles the French is seamless.”
As for other favorite narrators, Patchett cites Jeremy Irons reading LOLITA. “That’s a book I’ve taught. I know it backwards and forwards. There were things that I got out of listening to him, things that his narration and timing explained to me, that I never got when I was reading. And I now have his BRIDESHEAD REVISITED, which is one of my favorite books, and I’m saving it!” With unmistakable pride, she adds that another favorite audiobook narrator is novelist Jeanne Ray (JULIE AND ROMEO, STEP-BALL-CHANGE). Ray is Patchett’s mother.
Currently at work on her fifth novel, she calls it “a book about politics. BEL CANTO is a book about people being redeemed by art. The new book is about people at least trying to be redeemed by politics.”—S.J. Henschel