I hated reading “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” in school. I just hated every second of it, every slow ponderous second. I hated it not because of the story, but because I could barely tell what the story was through the damn dialogue.
When I read “Their Eyes Were Watching God” years later, I was also unimpressed. Yes, it has some interesting bits, but I spent so much time trying to decode what the hell anyone was saying, or what the meaning of certain sentences was, that I could barely pay attention to the language.
I was wrong. I was so, so wrong. “Huck Finn” is a hilarious book, poigniant and delightful. “Their Eyes Were Watching God” is a work of genius, of staggering beauty and with a music all its own. I found this out by buying the audiobooks.
Words that were unbelievably irritating to read on the page were suddenly easy. Both books were read by professional actors, and they did the work I hated of decoding the dialect. And suddenly the dialect was no longer a curse: it was magical. The dialect sang. But because I could not hear the music, because I did not know the rhythm or could not stretch my imagination to it, I had missed it all.