The Great Gastsby_audible

I admit I have geeked-out on Audible.Com.   Never a practitioner of audio books, I was an out-right scoffer of them. Everything in its season, I suppose. About three months ago, I was lured into a free, 30-day trial from Amazon’s subsidiary company, Audible.   Amazon has a way of doing that, at least,  to me,  as it continues to expand its river of companies.

Even before the dinosaur days of the Walkman,  like many  of my generation,  I walked and ran and played while listening to music. So, I added the spoken word from Audible  into my playlist. I was amazed with Audible’s curation and presentation  including  hundreds of thousands of  choices in stories – classic and contemporary – available to me with my “free credits” during the trial. Audible’s mission is to “release the power of the spoken word”.

With cloud technology, I was listening to a story in the car, and continuing it on my blue-tooth headphones while walking in the winter woods,  falling asleep to it in bed as the spoken narrative pumped through the nightstand  speakers which were blue-toothed to my tablet.

I found new bliss. Alan Rickman who won both the Emmy and the Golden Globe in the role of  Rasputin which I had produced with HBO once said, “The more we’re governed by idiots and have no control over our destinies, the more we need to tell stories to each other about who we are, why we are, where we come from, and what might be possible.”

There is a gold standard  of artistry in the Audible  readings. Elijah Wood’s first-person reading as  Huckleberry Finn   is  captivating.  Oscar-winner, Sissy Spacek’s five-star treatment of To  Kill A Mockingbird is perfection. Without a doubt,  The Great Gatsby is my favorite American novel.   I reread it every year. As Nick Carraway, Jake Gyllenhaal  expounds  this  tall-tale  with naughty  bravura, adding a whole new mischievous  dimension to  it which I did not realize the text possessed. All the  poetic readings of Richard  Burton seem to be in  Audible’s curation. With his  deep Welsh voice, anything Burton reads takes on primordial heave, but there is  nothing  more epic  than  Burton  performing the works of his favorite  Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas.


We often think that immersive storytelling is about over-amped imagery,  Lucas-Sound, and  theater seats that rock. Indeed,  for the human mind, one of  the most immersive experiences  remains the reading  of a book. According to  Dr. Maryann Wolfe at Tufts University, author of  Proust And The Squid: The Story And Science Of The Reading Brain  , reading is hard work. The left side of the brain processes the words of the text, and the right side interprets  them. The  entire brain is working when reading,   filling in the gaps of the story with memory, analysis,  imagery, and sensation. I have to believe that’s what also  happens when we listen to an oral narrative.

In hearing these recordings, something magical happens. Something transcendent. Since my geek-affair with Audible three months ago, the winter woods have melted to the budding of spring crocus. Like the landscape, I,  too, have been transformed. In  my case,  by these listenings of remarkable narratives.

Such a change-up might be something for you to experience as well, if you haven’t  yet traversed the audio world. By the way,  the free trial offer is  still available,  I am not an affiliate of Audible.   I make no money from them. I’m just a new fan-geek.  The sampling is free,  so why not mix it up?

If this format “doesn’t speak to you” (yes, pun intended) , make sure you cancel within the 30 days, otherwise your credit card will get dinged for the $14.95 a month service. Every month you get a “credit” for your subscription which affords you a permanent listen in your library of  a really big book (it could be anywhere from twenty to sixty hours of recorded performance) which would normally retail for fifty to seventy-five bucks. I think the subscription is worth it. You can cancel the subscription  at any time.

According to Audible, “Audible content includes more than 215,000 audio programs from leading audiobook publishers, broadcasters, entertainers, magazine and newspaper publishers, and business information providers. Audible is also the preeminent provider of spoken-word audio products for Apple’s iTunes Store.”

From the French short film,  Le Ballon rouge, 1956
From the French short film, Le Ballon Rouge, 1956

“Follow your bliss.”

“Follow your bliss” is Joe Campbell’s motto and mantra. As defined in Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary,  (always an amusing, often provocative reference),  Bliss is “The highest degree of happiness; blessedness; felicity; used of felicity in general, when of an exalted kind, but appropriately, of heavenly joys.”

But what happens if you have lost your bliss? How can you rekindle it? Joseph Campbell, the  world-famous mythologist,  believes you can jump-start it in two  easy steps.

Here they are, in his own words –

1) Find a Sacred Place

The sacred place “is an absolute necessity for anybody today, You must have a room , or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is a place of creative incubation. At first, you might find that nothing happens there.  But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”

2) Read A Book Or Hear A Song You Loved

“Our life has become so economic and practical in its orientation that, as you get older,” Campbell says,”  the claims of the moment upon you are so great, you hardly know where the hell you are, or what it is you intended. You are always doing something that is required of you.”

“Where is your bliss station? You have to try and find it. Get a phonograph and put on the music that you really love, even if it’s corny music that nobody else respects. Or get the book you like to read. In your sacred place you get the “thou” feeling of life that these people  (the ancient hunters) had for the whole world  in which they lived.”

As for the challenges and psychic sufferings in life? “Find a place inside where there is joy, “Campbell writes, “and the joy will burn out the pain.”

Proof of Concept

I followed Campbell’s advice on rediscovering  bliss through books.  I went back and reread the two books that gave me “bliss” early in life. The first was The Agony and The Ecstasy a biographical novel of the life of Michelangelo by Irving Stone. I read the book when I was nine. The second was My Autobiography by Charlie Chaplin . I was twelve when I read it. Both were about artists.

When I look back on my life, there is no question those two books, (ordered through  my family’s subscription to the Book Of The Month Club – remember that club?) had everything to do with my  own journey in helping film-makers cultivate their voice and their art.

As for songs,  I took  Campbell’s suggestion,  veering toward  the “corny music that nobody else respects.” That was the work of The Carpenters.  For me, it was magic. There is such a captivating and haunting tone in Karen Carpenter’s voice.

I hope this spring, in a time of transition, you find the time to check out the literature and music that pointed you to the person you are today. It may open a lens to your inner self which has been obscured by the rigors of time.

Note: The quotes were taken from the book, The Power Of Myth, a redaction of the legendary conversations between Bill Moyers and Joe Campbell from the 1980s.