Audio books for the win

by Jess

In November, I flew home to visit family. I bought a copy of Michael Ondaatje’s The Cat’s Table to read on the trip. I have yet to finish it. I love Ondaatje’s other works like The English Patient, Coming Through Slaughter, and Divisadero. Though I certainly haven’t had the focus lately to give it its fair due, The Cat’s Table seems to lack some of the poetry of Ondaatje’s other books that I’ve read. I’ll give you a full update when I’ve finished it.

The good news is that I took a six-hour round trip this past weekend, during which time I was able to listen to David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster, which I had never read. Shocking, I know. I enjoyed it very much, although “Big Red Son,” Wallace’s collaborative piece covering an adult video industry awards show, went on a bit long for me, psychically speaking; one can take only so much of the vulgar and tawdry, or at least I can (coincidentally, Wallace mentions in the essay that one of the several dictionary definitions of vulgar is simply commonplace or ordinary, whereas I typically use it synonymously with crude; however, both meanings are fairly representative of the porn industry these days). I find it amusing that AVN, the sponsor of the awards show in question, took umbrage at the way they were portrayed in the essay and wrote a number of rather unhappy letters in response.

“The View from Mrs. Thompson’s” (which you can listen to here) was far and away my favorite of the four pieces. It concerns Wallace’s experience of the September 11 terrorist attack, which he refers to as “the horror.” I found the last line of the piece particularly moving, although I won’t quote it for you here out of context: it carries the most weight when balanced atop the rest of the essay.