Published 10 May 201010 May 2010 · Main Posts Authors on audio – Ian McEwan Carol Middleton Whatever the virus was that left me sprawled lifeless across the bed, I can thank it for putting me out of action for a week. It gave me the excuse to lie there listening to the four CDs of Ian McEwan reading his novella On Cheshil Beach. I love audio books. They take the tension out of driving, creating an alternative universe while you are stuck in traffic on Punt Road. They feed the mind and heart while the body is busy fighting microbes and viruses. And what better than hearing the author himself read his work? Ian McEwan has a soft lilting Surrey accent that reveals the tender feelings of the author towards his characters, the young honeymooners Edward and Florence. It is set in 1962, a few years before my first marriage, but the coupling of two virgins is all too familiar. It’s marvellous to hear someone putting words to that fraught event. Writing about wordless events like sex is the hardest thing. Conveying a joyous union would be even harder. I had already read Solar, McEwan’s latest novel, a very different animal from On Cheshil Beach. It is faster-paced, focussed on contemporary events and issues, funnier and more shocking. The plot may be implausible at times, but the reprobate Professor Beard – womanising, commitment-phobic, greedy, dishonest – delights at every turn. McEwan reads excerpts of Solar on his blog, but his voice does not have the sharper tone needed for this more angular work, however subtly his mellow voice masters the pastel shades of irony. At the end of the recording of On Cheshil Beach, John Mullan interviews the author. McEwan talks about the experience of reading his books to live audiences. He is fascinated by the differing responses to his work in these readings. The reaction to On Cheshil Beach varied from rapt silence to hysterical laughter. Although in this case he thought the laughter stemmed from embarrassment, it can often be a response to irony, and reflect the underlying tone of the work. That reminded me of the reaction to one of my short stories that I read to a group. I had used plenty of irony and was pretty pleased with what was on the page, but I was not prepared for the guffaws and general merriment that erupted when I read it aloud. There’s no greater pleasure as a writer than getting that instant response to your story, but it only happens when the writer and reader are face to face in the same room. Audio books are great. Live storytelling is even better. Carol Middleton Carol Middleton is an award-winning Melbourne-based writer. She reviews books for Australian Book Review and music and theatre for Australian Stage. More by Carol Middleton › Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. Related articles & Essays First published in Overland Issue 228 10 November 202311 November 2023 · Subscriberthon 2023 On the final day of Subscriberthon, Overland’s most important members get to have their say Editorial Team BORIS A quick guide to another year of Overland, from your trusty feline, Boris. I liked the ginger cat story, though it made my human cry. I liked the talking cat, too, but I’m definitely in the “not wasting my time learning to talk” camp. But reading is good. And writing is fun, though it’s been challenging […] 1 First published in Overland Issue 228 9 November 20239 November 2023 · Subscriberthon 2023 On the second-last day of Subscriberthon, Overland’s co-chief editor Evelyn Araluen speaks truth to power Editorial Team To my friends and comrades, I’m not sure if there’s language to communicate how this last month has utterly changed me. This time a few weeks ago the busyness and chaos of bricolage arts and academic labour had so efficiently distracted me from my anxiety about the upcoming referendum that I forgot to prepare myself for its inevitable conclusion.