At his public readings, Mr. Wallace either skips footnotes, reads them as if they were in the main text or - the "worst option," he said in a telephone interview- brackets them by saying "begin footnote" and "end footnote."A brain voice? Do you have a brain voice? That should be an easy question to answer, but I can't answer it. I think I only have a sense of a "brain voice" when I'm thinking about speaking, which is the opposite of what Wallace is talking about.
"I spend a very long time trying to get the writing to hang together grammatically on the page more than for a sweating, breathing person to read to an audience," Mr. Wallace said from his home in Claremont, Calif., his voice sounding oddly footnote-ish. "Most poetry is written to ride on the breath, and getting to hear the poet read it is kind of a revelation and makes the poetry more alive. But with certain literary narrative writers like me, we want the writing to sound like a brain voice, like the sound of the voice inside of the head, and the brain voice is faster, is absent any breath, and it holds together grammatically rather than sonically."
So single-minded is Mr. Wallace, who is 43, about how his work looks over how it sounds that at his first public reading in the late 1980's, "I inserted the punctuation," he recalled, adding: "I would read a clause and say 'comma' or 'semicolon.' Or I'd say, 'new paragraph' and 'indent.' Now looking back at it I can see what a silent deal this is for me." At one point in "Consider the Lobster," Mr. Wallace encounters an ellipsis and reads "dot, dot, dot," which producers say is verboten. "Part of it is I'm not an actor and I don't know how to trail off, and I become somewhat autistic about it," he said.
"I become somewhat autistic about it" -- I'm not too sure what that means either! You mean he's not consciously being sort of funny when he says "dot, dot, dot"? He's just bizarrely overfocused on his own text?
Anyway, despite the seeming lack of similarity by between my mind and Wallace's, I'm greatly enjoying "Lobster," which I've got in my iPod.
Speaking of autism, the article also discusses the audio book of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," a novel with an autistic boy as the first-person narrator. I've listened to this one too. This one isn't read by the author -- Mark Haddon -- but by an excellent reader named Jeff Woodman. Here, the book has all sorts of drawings and diagrams, and the text has had to be reconfigured a bit so you can understand it without the graphics. This makes me likely to buy the book too.
I must add that even when the book lacks any distinctive visual elements, the experience of seeing the text is different enough that I find that when I like an audio book, I want to see the text too.