My advice: Listen to The Diary of Anne Frank on a 1995 Sony Walkman

The first time I read The Diary of Anne Frank, I listened to the audiobook on a Sony Walkman. It was 1995, and the recording was on cassette tape. This was by far the best way to read Anne Frank’s diary for the first time.

anne frank audiobook

I was raking leaves on my front lawn. It was late afternoon. The October shadows were long and thin. The air was cool.

It was a moment that I will never forget.

In fact, it was one of the most profound and moving experiences that I have ever had with a book. I finished listening to a diary entry in which Frank talks about the struggle between her interior self and her public self.

“…when everybody starts hovering over me, I get cross, then sad, and finally end up turning my heart inside out, the bad part on the outside and the good part on the inside, and keep trying to find a way to become what I'd like to be and what I could be if . . . if only there were no other people in the world.

Then there was no more.

Just silence.

At first I thought the reels had jammed, an all-too-common occurrence in the days of cassette tapes, but when I looked into the tiny window of the Walkman, I saw that the reels were spinning and the tape was coming to an end.

I pressed the stop button and extracted the cassette in order to turn it over. I saw the letter B on the tape.

I had already played both sides of the cassette.

Confused, I walked over to the case of cassette tapes on the front stoop to get the next one and discovered that there were no more. As I had thought, this was the last cassette.

That was it. As swiftly and unexpectedly as Frank and her family had been taken from their annex by the Nazis, The Diary of Anne Frank had come to an end.

I couldn’t believe it.


It’s not as if I was unaware of Anne Frank’s fate. I knew of her tragic death in the concentration camps.

It’s not as if I was expecting her diary to end on a high note. But the suddenness of its end, without a warning of any kind, literally stopped me in my tracks.

Had I been reading the book instead of listening to it, I would’ve had a measure of the remaining pages and been better prepared for the end. Unlike Anne and her family, I would’ve seen the end coming.

Had I been listening to the book on my iPhone, as I listen to audiobooks today, I would’ve been aware of the time remaining on the recording and not been so confused or surprised when it came to an end.

But because the technology did not allow for a warning, the ending was one of the most heart-wrenching moments in all of literature for me. Anne Frank was taken from me with an abruptness commensurate with her arrest. One day she was writing her diary, and the next day she was on a train that would eventually lead her to her death, never to write a single word again.

I do not cry easily. Even when I feel the need to cry, I tend to suppress my emotions Swallow them whole. Standing in my front yard that day on a carpet of orange and red leaves, I did not cry upon realizing that I had reached the end of Anne Frank’s diary, and in a way, the end of Anne Frank’s life.

I wept.

I wept, knowing that Anne Frank had never been given the chance to tell a single story. Tear streamed down my cheeks with the sudden awareness that Anne Frank went to her grave never knowing how many millions of people would ultimately read her diary and cherish every word.

I may have wept for Anne Frank regardless of how I consumed her diary for the first time, but I suspect that the abrupt ending contributed greatly to my emotional response. Anne Frank spent two years hiding with her family in their annex, and in that time, she wrote a diary that will be read for centuries. She had her whole life stretched out in front of her, and whether she believed it or not, it was rich with possibility. Despite her doubts, she was a gifted writer even at the age of fifteen. Then suddenly, without warning, her writing came to the end at the hands of evil men. She was separated from her family, shipped to a concentration camp, and was dead six months later.

Someday I will play the audiobook of The Diary of Anne Frank for my children. My plan is to play it in the car, in the midst of a long, cross-country road trip. With any luck, they won’t see the end coming any more than I did on that fall afternoon.

Some books are better consumed, at least the first time, in audio form, and preferably using technology from the mid-1990s.

Matthew Brown reads Matthew Green

The fact that I published MEMOIRS OF AN IMAGINARY FRIEND in the UK under the pseudonym Matthew Green and the narrator of the audio version of the book is Matthew Brown is odd. Or perhaps fitting.

Either way, I am happy to see Matthew Brown getting his due in the recent review of his performance in AudioFile magazine:

By Matthew Dicks
Read by Matthew Brown

Matthew Brown gives a winning performance as Budo, the imaginary friend of 8-year-old Max. Max has a spectrum disorder (probably autism). Budo, who immediately assures us he’s not imaginary, is the interpreter of and the link between Max’s world and the “typical” world. Brown is especially effective as Budo explains Max’s life. Max can’t stand to be touched, has rigid routines, likes silence and solitude, and retreats inside when too many choices overload his circuits. When Max loses control, his voice becomes shrill with a flat affect. Brown’s uncanny reproduction of Max’s high-pitched hysteria makes Max completely believable. Matthew Dicks offers an unusual and original look into a world filled with terrifying obstacles for a child whose brain function forces him to create his only comfort.


I hate the Red Sox, but I love these guys

I’m listening to the book Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season by Stephen King and Stuart O’Nan. It’s essentially a double-entry journal that chronicles the Red Sox for one season. It’s full of traditional journal entries, email exchanges, summaries of phone calls between the two men, and recollections of games they attended alone and together.

Even though I am a Yankees fan, I’m enjoying the book a lot, though I suspect I will enjoy it much less once I reach the postseason entries. By some stroke of genius, King and O’Nan chose to work on this book during the season in which the Red Sox win their first World Series since 1918.

Lucky bastards.

But having grown up in Massachusetts, I spent a lot of time around Red Sox fans, so listening to what King and O’Nan have to say about the team and the game of baseball is a little bit like going home.

I also like both writers a lot.

O’Nan taught at creative writing at Trinity College during my time there, and I was fortunate enough to squeeze in one class with him before he left. I’ve heard him speak a few times since then, and I’ve read several of his books, including most recently LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER. Years ago I read his nonfiction account of the Hartford Circus Fire, and I cannot recommend it enough.

Stephen King has become a bit of a hero to me, for several reasons.

Growing up without very few books in my home, it wasn’t until I was granted my own library card that I really began reading and falling in love with books, and many of those first books were written by Stephen King. NIGHT SHIFT, DIFFERENT SEASONS, THE SHINING, and CUJO were just a few of the novels I read that first summer, and I loved every one of them.

Eventually I would go on to read all of King’s work, including IT, which I have read at least a dozen times, and his Dark Tower series, which I consider a genuine masterpiece.

Two decades later, it would be another one of King’s books, ON WRITING, that would inspire me to continue writing when the possibility of a writing career felt impossible and hopeless. The first half of ON WRITING is an autobiographical account of King’s life as a writer, including his very humble beginnings as a short story writer for men’s magazines.  The image of Stephen King siting in the laundry room of his trailer, shoved against the washing machine, unable to afford medicine for his sick children, sent me back to the laptop ready and willing to conquer the beast.

At the age of ten, Stephen King opened my mind to the world of books and reading, and thirty years later, I have now joined his fraternity. It’s an incredible feeling. Sort of like idolizing a ballplayer as a kid and then finding yourself playing alongside that same player someday.

In reading FAITHFUL, I’ve learned a few things about King that I did not know, specifically in terms of his approach to time management. It turns out that he and I have a lot in common in this regard.

While watching the Red Sox game, King has a book in his lap, and in between innings, he will read. He estimates that he can read about 40 pages during the average baseball game.

I have also been known to do this, in addition to spending commercial breaks listening to audiobooks and podcasts or pounding away at the laptop. From time to time I’ve also been known to listen to an audiobook while watching television, especially when the show is somewhat mindless and predictable.

Even more impressive, King writes about how he will listen to the ballgame on his car radio but switch over to an audiobook in between innings, timing the two minute commercial break with his wrist watch.

Similarly, I can be found at the gym with two sets of headphones when running on the elliptical. One is a wireless pair connected to my iPhone, through which I am undoubtedly listening to an audiobook or podcast. The second pair is attached to the machine so I can listen to the television affixed to it. I will switch between these two headphones during a workout in order to take advantage of commercial breaks, which has caused more than one fellow gym rat to stare at me in confusion. Yesterday, for example, I was watching the replay of the Yankees game from the day before as I worked out, and similar to King, I would switch headphones between innings and listen to my book, which happened to be King and O’Nan discussing the Red Sox “June swoon.”

Fear not, boys. Things will turn around for the Sox soon enough.

I’ve often thought that if Stephen King and I had the chance to get to know one another, we would be fast friends. While this is unlikely to ever happen, I do hope that he reads one of my books someday, which isn’t asking much considering the number of books the man reads on a yearly basis. I wouldn't even need to know if he liked the book or not. Just knowing that the author who inspired a ten year old boy to read and a thirty year old man to write picked up one of my novels would be enough for me.