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I first became aware of David
Rakoffs writing through public radios This
American Life, where his personal reflections on his own experience fit
right in with those of Scott Carrier,
Vowell, and David
Sedaris. Once I have associated
them with their own readings of their work, I jump at the chance to get the
audiobook versions of their books instead of reading the old-fashioned paper
versions. Besides, Ive found it very
hard to motivate myself to sit down and read book collections of essays,
because the form of the short personal essay is best suited to magazines and
radio. But maybe thats just me.
to Fraud, however, I came to suspect that much of Rakoffs work might
work better in the written form than in spoken form. His voice is most welcome when he is using his driest humor, with
a liberal pinch of self-mockery, because then hearing him helps the reader be
in on the joke, guided by the inflections in his voice. But some of the pieces here are thirty or
more minutes long and contain a fair amount of detail, and it requires more
uninterrupted time to focus on listening than its generally possible to have
unless you are on a long drive. For
many of the pieces, Rakoff is simply reading, and his voice is not so dramatic
or charismatic as to make one feel that he is doing a better job than one could
reading the words to oneself. Thats
not a criticism of his writing; it is interesting on its own, and his personal
history, his experience of Hodgkins disease and its aftermath, his reflections
on the seminars and explorations he is sent on as a reporter or observer are
sharp and intelligent; he is a New Yorker who is a little impatient with other
peoples self-serving delusions, yet he is also admiring of other peoples
eccentricities. (The description on the
back of the CD box sleeve emphasizes Rakoffs nastiness and sneering, but
thats misleading; he might be a little circumspect, but theres far more
melancholy than anger in his delivery.)
One problem with many audiobooks,
and this one in particular, is that the packaging is unhelpful. In this case, the audiobook is abridged on
four CDs, lasting four hours, but there is no table of contents, no guide to
the reader before putting in the first CD, and not even a track listing of any
kind. The gatefold quadruple CD box is
not very user friendly more than once I have opened it only to have a CD
flying across the room because it was not firmly in its place. Since the audiobook costs more than the
hardback, this seems rather miserly of the publisher; surely providing a little
information would not add a great deal to the production costs.
Except from Fraud
© 2001 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.
Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College,
Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review.
His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry.
He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can
play a greater role in public life. He is available to give talks
on many philosophical or controversial issues in mental health.
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