Everybody told me. But, until now, I didn't listen.
Feed by M. T. Anderson is an incredible book, an utterly absorbing snarky sci-fi read about a future in which our brains are wired for digital communication from birth. The upside is messaging each other with minds alone. The downside is all the ads from the corporations who, collectively control the feed, and thereby also control our minds. When Titus meets Violet, whose feed was installed later than his own, he learns all kinds of things that he hardly has space to absorb in his product-saturated existence, things about socioeconomic differences and how expensive it really is to go to the moon. Which is where he met Violet, on spring break. This book has possibly the best first line ever: "We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck."
But now I'm listening, and I mean really listening, because I finally got (read: broke down and bought from audible.com) Feed as an audiobook. And it is beyond worth it. The feed is acoustically animated, if you will, bringing the sense of being inundated with ads, stories, images right into your earphones and into your head. I'm glad I read it first, back when it came out in 2002, rather than hearing it first, because this interpretation (and it really is an interpretation) is powerful. Even the voices of the characters suggest varying levels of sincerity and vapidity, differentiating them while also defining them in ways that print could not. And yet, never before have I had the experience of wishing that an audiobook wouldn't end, just so I could keep having the pleasure of listening to the inventive interpretation.
I find that my emotional read on the characters is a little different this time around at a level that goes beyond the voices. While before I felt sickened by Titus' callousness (and of course I overidentified with Violet. Duh.), this time I hear the cultural context differently. Violet argues that the feed keeps people from thinking, keeps them focused on desire and gratification, and on the next desire. This time, that makes more sense to me, and I blame Titus less for his inability to empathize at the most basic level. The feed is more real, perhaps, and therefore I see its distraction possibilities more vividly. Or maybe we're at a different point in history now than in 2002, and I'm susceptible to the lures of internet entertainment in ways I wasn't then.
Not all audiobooks are this impressive, of course, but I'm definitely going to pay more attention to the Horn Book audiobook reviews for my own future use. We change, and, for me, books that I re-read show me how I've changed. I'm positive the audio format and the extraordinary performance have something to do with this. But it's also true that I am on facebook regularly, blogging right now, and connected to email throughout my day. 2002 looks old fashioned from here.