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Consider the audiobook

Why don’t more writers perform their own audiobooks?  I ask this not only as someone who just listened to the whole of DFW’s Consider the Lobster (well, not quite – it was abridged) today and loved it, but as someone who finds Sylvia Plath’s recitation of “Daddy” exponentially more arresting than the work on page; who has often practiced that distinct Dylan Thomas lilt in the shower; and who spends nights tracking down radio interviews with any and all writers he’s even remotely interested in because he wants to hear it, the voice, the human behind the texts.   On reflection, I think this has a lot to do with the personal investment that inheres in these performances – no one on earth is quite so invested in what an author is saying as the author him/herself is.

Take “The View From Mrs. Thompson’s” from Consider the Lobster, for example. This essay is essentially a series of anecdotes describing how DFW and the Midwestern folks in his vicinity/community reacted to 9/11 – a solid piece, whether read aloud or not.  In DFW’s voice, however, it transcends. We get to hear his reactions – the tenderness, the listlessness, the guilty detachment – and, most appropriately, it’s all delivered in his unmistakably Southern Illinoisan drawl.  There’s a rich new dimension present that isn’t, simply can’t be, on the page.  And while it’s true that this effect is likely heightened by the genre, it’s not hard to think of fiction that might benefit from the same approach as well.  (Lethem’s Fortress of Solitude and Robinson’s Housekeeping immediately leap to mind.)

What’s your take on this, readers?  Am I in a minority here?  Are you as annoyed as I am that you’ll never get to hear Donald Barthelme read one of his own short stories?  More importantly, can you recommend some good author-read audiobooks to me?

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