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FraudReview - Fraud
Unabridged slections read by the author
by David Rakoff
Bantam Audio, 2001
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Dec 31st 2001 (Volume 5, Issue 1)

I first became aware of David Rakoff’s writing through public radio’s This American Life, where his personal reflections on his own experience fit right in with those of Scott Carrier, Sarah 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, I’ve 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 that’s just me.

            Listening to Fraud, however, I came to suspect that much of Rakoff’s 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 it’s 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.  That’s not a criticism of his writing; it is interesting on its own, and his personal history, his experience of Hodgkin’s 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 people’s self-serving delusions, yet he is also admiring of other people’s eccentricities.  (The description on the back of the CD box sleeve emphasizes Rakoff’s nastiness and sneering, but that’s misleading; he might be a little circumspect, but there’s 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. 

 

 

Link:

Real Audio Except from Fraud

© 2001 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.

Christian Perring, 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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