Short form: Bronson Pinchot, widely acclaimed and (vocally) prolific audio book narrator, picks up Cory Doctorow’s “Someone Comes To Town, Someone Leaves Town” in an unedited, 11+ hour DRM-free audiobook. That’s one great week of commuting time this gnarly winter for less than the cost of half a tank of gas.
Long form: SCTTSLT is probably Doctorow’s strangest novel but one of my favorites. It’s ten years old, and still deliciously off-center. You have to experience it knowing that all of the characters with alliterated first names are the same; you have to listen deeply to get into the symbolism. It’s weird, and it’s reflectively weird if you are a first or second generation immigrant to the West. One of the insights Cory shared with me years ago was that he chose the flexible naming conventions because it seemed the Russian immigrant generation in his family used so many names to refer to the same person, and the foreign family member stand-ins (stacking dolls and washing machine, for example) conveyed that same rough sense of being in a foreign land. If you can’t envision a washing machine as a maternal metaphor, go re-listen to “Do You Love Me?” from “Fiddler on the Roof.” If matryoshka dolls don’t resonate as siblings, you don’t have (or are not) a middle child in the family. And if the alliterative nicknames don’t work, pick up your Dostoevsky (ideally, “Crime and Punishment”) again. The Russian force is strong with this one.
In the art-life transverse universe: People of roughly my age remember Bronson Pinchot as Balki from “Perfect Strangers,” a strangely setup TV sitcom about a Greek immigrant to Chicago and the foreign interpretation of his somewhat appealing naivety. It makes the narration seem all the more appropriate, although there isn’t even a tenuous connection between the choice of narrator and his previous small screen credits.
Tangential but completely unrelated music reference: Mimi’s wings (and their scarred history) and her role as creative forcing function remind me of Prise Ambellina from the Coheed & Cambria Amory Wars universe. The cover for Downpour’s audio book of SCTTSLT is eerily similar to Coheed posters from their first four albums.