Written by Samantha Phillips
Usually, I’m a hard-copy kind of gal. The feeling of pages between my fingers, the occasional paper cut drawing bright crimson across a page, the scent and weight of the volume itself — these are tangible and hugely enjoyable markers of reading an actual, honest-to-goodness book.
The pandemic changed that. The amount of time I spent on-screen rose to new heights and my eyes begged for rest. So, I transitioned into an audiobook phase.
Some audiobooks were more successful than others. I attribute this to the readers.
No, I couldn’t make it through Robert A. Caro’s ThePower Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York (Random House Audio 2011) which details the monumental role Moses played in developing NYC. Should be fascinating, right? Not with Robertson Dean’s soporific narration. After four chapters I was seriously afraid of nodding off at the wheel. So, for the safety of all, I gave up with a whopping 62 hours and 28 minutes left to go.
As the pandemic faded, I entered a hybrid phase, switching between hard copies and audio and discovered my sweet spot as a listener: authors who narrate their own work. I ecstatically plugged into Audible’s Words & Music imprint and started in on Broken Horses (Random House Audio) the 2021 must-listen memoir by Brandi Carlile (I loved it when she broke out her guitar and sang solo renditions of songs featured in the book). Next up was Smarty Girl: Dublin Savage (Simon & Schuster Audio 2012), Honor Molloy’s autobiographical novel about growing up in 1960s Dublin, read with the glorious lilt of the Irish storyteller. And I must mention Guinevere Turner’s When the World Didn't End (Penguin Random House Audio 2023). Turner’s harrowing yet hopeful memoir about her childhood in a cult and with an abusive family member. After these three golden audio nuggets, I was ready to return to hard copy land...but COVID had other plans, as it often does.
Only a few weeks ago, I landed in quarantine for five days. Pageboy — written and narrated by Canadian actor Elliot Page — called my name. Published earlier this year, Page’s powerful and poignant memoir tracks the actor’s transition from Ellen to Elliot. It’s a major contribution to non-binary and trans awareness and advocacy, a New York Times Bestseller, and a story we need to hear in an age when hateful anti-trans legislation rages across the USA.
I first noticed Page in his Oscar-nominated title role in Juno (2007). He narrates his memoir in a youthful, raspy voice. He sounds calm, even when emotions run high. You feel like you’re sitting in his living room on that overstuffed chair featured in Juno. Elliot Page was often mistreated and misunderstood for his identity. Transphobia is infuriating, and hearing Page tell his own story in his own voice makes his fury palpable.
"Do you have a fever? Brain fog?" a friend asked over the phone. “How are you?”
“Much better today,” I said. “I’ve been sleeping with Elliot Page.”
Okay, that’s not funny — but it’s accurate as far as it goes. Pageboy’s filled with raunchy revelations about who Elliot’s slept with. (Spoilers: a secret relationship with Kate Mara! His Juno co-star Olivia Thirlby — in the trailer during shooting!) But I slept with Elliot in the most platonic of ways, drifting off on the couch in a mild Covid-haze.
Dozing off while reading a hard copy can be dangerous. The book slips from your hands and wakes you with a start. With any luck, you don’t lose your place. And if you do, you have to hunt for the place where consciousness ceased.
In contrast, my Audible Book versions go on without me. Pageboy skips around chronologically in a stream-of-consciousness style, mirroring how memory works. It also makes it tough to find precisely where I left off.
There’s something to appreciate in the way language, reader, and listener can meld when the gates of consciousness are left ajar. As I listened half-asleep, Page's disclosure about his gender dysphoria merged with my own journey as a queer woman who views gender as a continuum rather than as a binary. How deeply? In ways I will never fully know.
Thank you, Elliot Page. Pageboy was wonderful company for 8 1/2 hours — more, if you count the times when I tumbled into dreamland and had to rewind!
Check out the Close To You teaser for the film that opened September 10th and is the “complete highlight of my [Elliot’s] career.”
Close To You Trailer 2023 | Elliot Page | Hillary Baack | Close To You Trailer | Close To You Teaserwww.youtube.com