Wildcard Topic: Read to People? Why?

Yes, the wildcard post was supposed to be about food this week. But hey, it’s a “wildcard”, so you have to expect a certain amount of flexibility. Apparently, I’m not done with the deep thinking this week. Indulge, me, pretty please?

So a post over at The Literary Lab yesterday got me thinking. Why do people want authors to read their books out loud, in public? And why do authors feel compelled to read their work out loud? Isn’t the whole point of putting words on paper to read them? Some of you may think I’m joking, or mocking – I assure you, that’s not the case.

I am genuinely mystified by this admittedly time-honored tradition. I don’t like to be read to – even as a child, I don’t even remember my mom reading to me so much as helping me sound out the words (I started reading at a very early age). It probably has something to do with the way I process audio cues – college lectures never really did me any good either – anything I didn’t write down in my notes didn’t “stick”. I always had to read the information for myself, even if the professor read straight out of the book, before it finally “clicked” in my brain. I can’t spell out loud either, or tell you if something you spell out loud to me is correct until I write it down. I’m actually a very good speller, but getting the information from brain to mouth is nearly impossible – it has to go from brain to fingers.

I think that’s why I don’t get the whole public reading thing. Would I go see my favorite author read a passage from his/her book? No. Well, okay, I might go, but only to get an autograph afterward. The reading itself would bore me to tears, even if the same book incited an instant adrenaline rush when I read it. Though if I read along silently with the author…that might work. Auditory processing is not my thing – and reading my work out loud is probably the only thing I’d turn down in a heartbeat if asked to do for promotional purposes (now that I’ve crippled my not-yet-started career…ahem). I wouldn’t like the whole being in front of people thing, but I could get past that – the reading my work out loud thing would be the deal breaker. It’s not meant to be spoken, it’s meant to be read, in my mind.

I never thought my views were that abnormal until I started virtually “hangin’” with writers. Apparently readings are fairly common, and people actually go to them. I always assumed that writers would prefer to keep the words on the page (esp. given how many don’t read their work to themselves while editing – something that actually does help me quite a bit, oddly enough). I just made the (wrong) assumption that readers would prefer to keep the words on the page too – so this whole “let’s do a reading” thing is just weird to me. Yes, audio books are too. I cannot get immersed in an audio book. I never listen to them.

So readers, writers, people accidentally surfing by, I’m dying to know: Have you been to a book reading by an author? If yes, did you like it? If not, would you go? Writers, would you do a reading from your novel?