My car is a Japanese-designed, 2007 model that for some fucking reason, has no USB or AUX input on the dash for my phone. So if I want to listen to something that’s not CDs or the radio, I either have to buy one of those crappy gadgets that plugs into the cigarette lighter, tunes to some imaginary radio station, and sucks, or I have to burn stuff to CDs.
Which I do, because although I am willing to pay for things like movers and home furniture delivery, apparently I am not willing to shell out money to modify a thing I will use almost every single day of my life.
Sometimes I burn podcasts to CDs, and I pick the hourlong ones because I can listen to half of the episode on the way to work and half of it on the way home. My favorite is Radiolab, but because that’s not updated as frequently as I can consume it, lately I’ve been listening to Two Book Minimum. I like Two Book Minimum. It’s a lit podcast by a comedy guy, and there’s always an author and another comedian in the room. They talk about the author’s book (kind of) and make jokes and conversation. It’s nice. It’s the kind of talking I prefer to hear all of the time.
The thing about podcasts, though, is that they’re mostly talking, so if you find one that features a person with a weak, annoying, or awful voice, it can be really hard to struggle through the episode (ahem, this is when I hand in my cool person card and go on record saying that I CANNOT STAND IRA GLASS FOR THIS VERY REASON). Case in point: the 1/22/14 episode of Two Book Minimum, featuring Adelle Waldman and her novel “The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.”
I had hopes for “The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.,” even though the only person I know (of) who’s read it didn’t like it, but then, this person seems to dislike most books with protagonists matching their own age/gender/basic disposition. I’d also seen the New York Times Op-Ed piece about how the protagonist – a young-ish writer/liberal/Brooklynite – is so unlikable that his very fictional existence (by which the op-ed author meant “his fictional existence which implies the real life existence of men just like him”) will drive women to date Republicans.
Which is insane.
But anyway, I wanted to hear about “The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.,” and I managed this for about 20 minutes before Adelle Waldman’s voice made me want to punch my worthless shitty CD player.
First and most obviously, she ends every sentence in a question mark. I detest this. This is a distinctly female trait that once seemed relegated to the West Coast, but since the advent of reality TV and its way of structuring character development with sentences that begin with “I feel like,” it’s gained steam and spread all over the fucking place and now women everywhere sound like indecisive assholes who are just looking for approval of their opinions. Fucking declare something already, everyone, say it like you mean it.
Second, and this sort of goes along with the above, but everything she says is delivered in a tone that suggests she has no idea what she’s saying or if it’s the right thing to say, and this is underscored by the moment she attempts to explain Nathaniel P.’s motivations – her character’s motivations, as in, the motivations of the character she created! – to the podcast host, who has a slightly different interpretation.
“Maybe he…?” she begins, and it’s clear that she’s not just passive-aggressively suggesting that host is incorrect. She’s speculating on the behavior of a character that came out of her own head. Maybe nothing, lady, he’s your character. Tell us what’s what and if you can’t, then you didn’t do a very good job with him, did you?
“The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.” is about a toxic sort of bachelor, a lifestyle that Adelle Waldman goes to great lengths to distance herself from in the podcast. I mean, fuck, it’s fine to be married and mention it once in a while, but in the span of 20 minutes, she had to have said “I’m married, and I love being married” at least four times. That’s once every five minutes that I had to be reminded that she wouldn’t know anything about philandering or sleeping around or being selfish and alone. She is married. She loves being married. Which tells me less about the book and more about that persistent sense that she doesn’t know what she’s saying, because she’s trying so hard to absolve herself of this protagonist’s behavior that she’s essentially admitting she’s pulling it all out of her ass (also, what’s it like to despise your own protagonist?).
This was so annoying to me that I couldn’t listen any further, and angrily ejected the CD, choosing to drive in silence. I was angry about the voice, I was angry about the book, and I was angry that I’d spent my time listening to this person who wasn’t very sure of either thing. I was hoping to be convinced to buy “The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.,” but unfortunately, the only decisive voice in the car was mine when I said “oh HELL no.”