I decided I would begin reading my free ebooks (based on this list) with George Eliot's Adam Bede. I fired up my Kindle and was delighted by these opening sentences:
With a single drop of ink for a mirror, the Egyptian sorcerer undertakes to reveal to any chance comer far-reaching visions of the past. This is what I undertake to do for you, reader. With this drop of ink at the end of my pen, I will show you the roomy workshop of Mr. Jonathan Burge, carpenter and builder, in the village of Hayslope, as it appeared on the eighteenth of June in the year of our Lord 1799.
Quite quickly, though, I came to this:
"We'll hand up th' door at the fur end o' th' shop an' write on't 'Seth Bede, the Methody, his work.' Here, Jim, lend's hould o' th' red pot."
And then this:
"Ne'er heed me, Seth. Y' are a down-right good-hearted chap, panels or no panels; an' ye donna set up your bristles at every bit o' fun, like some o' your kin, as is mayhap cliverer."
I slogged through more incomprehensible dialect. And I do mean slogged. How is one to know what is going on here? A little bit of this goes a long way. All of this - let's just call it what is is: gibberish - slows down my reading and I totally lose the thread of the author's meaning.
For the same reason, I have avoided reading Mark Twain's tales of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. I gave up after just a few pages of Their Eyes Were Watching God by Nora Zeale Hurston and barely struggled through a few of those Southern Gothic novels. (I'm thinking of you Mr. Faulkner.)
So, I thought maybe instead of letting my eyes do the reading, perhaps I could let my ears do the work. I first headed to the library website and found that it has the book on discs. Eighteen of them! Then I searched the WorldWideWeb for 'adam bede audiobook' and that is when I discovered the LibriVox site.
Here we have Project Gutenberg for the Ear. The books in LV's catalog are all in the public domain - this means they are free - and are read by volunteers. There are over 19,000 completed books with 400 books in progress. There are also books in other languages, so if I want to listen to Candide (another book on my list), I can do so in English or French.
I can download Adam Bede as a zip file (whatever that is) or just head to the site and listen on my laptop. I can also listen to it on my smart phone. The reading is divided into chapters and the time it takes to listen to each one is noted (very helpful for planning). The longest chapter runs about 45 minutes; the shortest maybe eight minutes. Also, I see that the chapters are read by both male and female volunteers so there is some variety.
The only obstacle here is that I don't really like listening to books. I am usually lulled to sleep. I don't do any sort of hand work, like knitting or crocheting, that I could try to do as I listen. And anyway, I am not much one for multi-tasking.
Actually, I think the best solution would be to read the written words along with the spoken words.
I don't know how this is all going to work out, but I will try a few different things and let you know.
Where do you stand on reading dialect? Or, on listening to books?