cover image Essays


Wallace Shawn, read by the author, Haymarket Books, unabridged, four CDs, 5 hrs., $36 ISBN 978-1-6084-6004-5

Caveat emptor: these witty, ironic, and observant essays by Wallace Shawn are brought to audio in a shoddy production with such poor sound quality that listeners may justifiably demand their money back. The microphone skips in and out so that parts of Shawn's narration are almost completely lost. In a reproduction of the 2004 interview that Shawn conducted with MIT linguist Noam Chomsky, the volume modulation varies so widely in the interview's second half that listening becomes irritating and difficult. (And the narration itself is confusing: Shawn plays Chomsky while Brian Jones plays Shawn, a role reversal that will sound bizarre to listeners who have already spent more than an hour with Shawn reading as himself.) Advice to Shawn's many fans: buy the hardcover of these worthy essays or seek out the pieces online; free versions of some are available on various Web sites or even on A Haymarket hardcover. (May)