February 6, 2008 by in category Blogs with 1 and 0
Home > Writing > Blogs > WHY I LOVE TO DRIVE


OCC BLOG 2-5-08
by Diane Pershing

You’re going to think I’m nuts, but I actually enjoy driving, even in L.A. When the freeways are crowded and it’s rush hour and it’s raining and when everyone around me is irritated and impatient and rude, I just adore being cocooned in my car. Why? Because I always have an audio book going. Always. I have been doing this for years, since before CDs. I’ve listened to hundreds of books—maybe even a thousand by now—on long trips up north to see my daughter, southeast to Rancho Mirage to visit my best friend, and various short and not-so short hops, such as the one from my home in Silver Lake to the Brea Community Center.

I feel warm and toasty and happy when I listen. I think this must be the way my parents’ generation felt, gathered around the old radio for that week’s program in a long-running soap opera, or a play, or the latest “Lone Ranger” episode. There is something about being read to that is comforting, isn’t there. Not only because of childhood bedtime stories read to us, but because we tend to listen more intently than we do when there is also a distracting visual component. This concentrated listening doesn’t take away from my driving, the way talking on a cell phone has in the past (I don’t do that anymore—too many near-death experiences for comfort).

And so the time flies and my mind gets new input and I listen to other writers’ words and soak them up into my soul. Traffic? Not my problem.I read a lot of mysteries in the car; sometimes I sit there after I’ve parked and listen some more because I need to know what happens next. Straight romances don’t fare so well—the sound of someone reading a sexy love scene seems odd to me; I’d much rather be reading the words myself and using my imagination that way. Of course a good romantic suspense is just fine—Suzanne Brockmann is a favorite and Nora as J.D. Robb is exactly the kind of book that works well.

I’ve also used my audio habit as a way of getting around to some of the great writers that I don’t seem to have the patience for at home. It was in my old Camaro that I listened to the entire works of Thomas Hardy—and what a magnificent, poetic, muscular writer he was! In the Infiniti I both read and listened to the entire Jane Austen oeuvre; one can never get enough of Jane Austen, right? There have been some non-fiction historicals by Barbara Tuchman, some biographies, Bernard Malamud and Philip Roth, New Yorker short stories and profiles… and the list goes on.

I just finished reading Jane Fonda’s autobiography, My Life So Far, narrated by the lady herself, and oh, was it ever amazing! I’ve always been a huge fan of her acting, was mostly on her side politically (even if I questioned some of the ways she made her opinions heard), and fascinated by her three marriages. The first to a French director, Roger Vadim, the second to Tom Hayden, one of the original political rabble rousers who went on to be an active California politician, and the last to that very famous, eccentric, marches-to-his-own-drummer, Ted Turner. But more than that, her inner journey—from a sex object who thought her only value was to please men, all the way to a true feminist who now devotes most of her time and fortune to helping young underprivileged girls get educated, understand their bodies and avoid teen pregnancy—has been a miracle to hear about.

My own inner journey was similar, although, needless to say, never as dramatic and not in the public spotlight at all. But I connected with Jane to such an extent that I sent my daughter a copy of the book. Morgan Rose is 34 and of the generation who appreciates the stories I tell her of Before: girdles, sitting under hair dryers, falsies, being paid half what we were worth, never speaking up for fear of displeasing daddy, being urged to “teach or type” as the only reasonable careers “until you get married and have a man take care of you,” and all of that stuff from the Stone Age. But most of her generation tends to take the strides we’ve made for granted; I thought being introduced to Jane’s journey would bring it home.

As an activist/filmmaker, Jane put her money where her mouth was. Before most of us were aware of the problems, she produced and starred in films about nuclear accidents (The China Syndrome), workplace sexual harassment (9 to 5), the returning Viet Nam vets and their problems adjusting to life in America again (Coming Home). She produced and took a supporting role in On Golden Pond so her father, the great Henry Fonda, could finally get a chance at an Oscar (he won that year and died a few months later).

Reading about Jane’s life, I really didn’t want the book to end. Now isn’t that a testament to a great tale told well? And isn’t it lovely that in this age of burgeoning technical advances, some of them positive but most with the potential to rip away all privacy and quiet, we can use this particular technology to advance that most important element of a satisfying and well-rounded life, the reading of books?
Posted by diane pershing at 6:41 PM 0 comments

1 Comment

  • Anonymous
    on February 6, 2008

    Diane, I don’t think you’re nuts for liking to drive. I’m the same way. And I do the same thing — listen to books. I’ve been an avid listener of books on tape since I moved to California.

    I don’t tend to listen to too many romance or romantic suspense books, but instead pick other genres, other authors. One of the best books I ever listened to was A World Lit Only by Fire by William Manchester. I would never have read the book, but I was hooked on listening to it.

    It’s amazing how listening to a book that you wouldn’t normally read can shape your views and your life.


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