Audiobook Orgy Part 1: Road Trip!

usa-001I went on a road trip – 2400 miles through 11 states in 8 days. Along the way I visited family and gave a few book lectures. But mostly I drove. And listened to audiobooks. I’m drawn to center-left history and analysis, so David Owen’s Green Metropolis, Michael Pollen’s In Defense of Food, and Kevin Phillip’s American Theocracy were my copilots. Thirty-eight hours of policy-wonking that I’d never have the patience to read in print.

Books of this sort share several things in common.

First, they are too long. Each needed an editor who weighed the manuscript and sent it back with the simple directive: “Cut this in half”. Their theses, though important and sound, get lost in mountains of detail and a habit of paraphrasing an idea to make it seem fresh. These aren’t academic works, so I don’t understand what compels the authors to insert mile marker after mile marker of minutiae. Perhaps they’re modern day Dickens – paid by the word.

imgres-2Second, the analytical power of these books fizzles when it’s time to make conclusions. Is the liberal worldview so beaten down that we can enumerate problems ad nauseum but offer no viable solutions? David Owen presents a clear case for high-density living but doesn’t offer any economic or policy guidance to move us in that direction. Any spin master knows that, “We have to make driving less attractive” is a non-starter. Toss us a few positive examples, Dave, to illuminate the way. At least Michael Pollen never pretends that his response to buck Big Food by growing and cooking our own has broad applicability; he embraces his audience of Whole Foods transcendents. And by the time Kevin Phillips completes his 15-CD exposition, I’m not only convinced that American dominance is in retreat, I’m too exhausted to care that he offers no uplifting way out or our demise.

But the most bizarrimgres-1e aspect of these books is how I consume them, which is at complete odds with their message. In my ordinary life I drive little, eat well, and don’t participate in the oil-drenched, fundamentalist debt-cycle Mr. Phillips cites as our doom. But on a road trip, I fill up my tank every six hours; I consider the merits of the waffles versus doughnuts offered at my economy motel breakfast, and then gobble down both; I accelerate past miles of MacMansions inhabited by fellow citizens simultaneously burdened by debt and liberated by their certain faith.

It is disingenuous to listen to Mr. Owen extol the sustainable virtue of Manhattan as I barrel along I-80 in rural Pennsylvania. It is poor form to chuckle at Mr. Pollen’s sage advice, ‘never eat the same place your car does’, as I fetch a power bar and Diet Coke at a truck stop in Ohio. It is heinous to absorb Mr. Phillips’ litany of triple omens in the South. I motor through 50 miles of continuous development between Huntington and Charleston West Virginia as he describes our government’s deceitful acts to ensure cheap oil, wondering why I always thought West Virginia was rural. He rants against the religious right’s takeovimgreser of the Republican Party – and our national discourse – as I pass anti-evolution billboards in Virginia. He outlines the conspiracy of eternal debt that spells the end of American hegemony as I drive through New York City. Like I said, it’s a long book; begun in Kentucky, completed in Connecticut.

Still, I find value in listening to these books. What they say needs to be said, even if they repeat themselves too much. The author’s arguments motivate me to consider next steps: how can we address the big issues of food, energy and personal freedom in a world parsed into narrow sound bites.

My audiobook orgy inspired me to provide a service to all my awkward pose readers. Over the next few weeks I’ll post Audiobook Orgy Parts 2, 3, 4: short synopses of each book and potential actions that we, as individuals and as a society, can take to move in a healthier direction. It will save you hours of reading or listening. Unless you want the deep dive. For that, I recommend a car trip from Cambridge to Kentucky.

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About paulefallon

Greetings reader. I am a writer, architect, cyclist and father from Cambridge, MA. My primary blog, theawkwardpose.com is an archive of all my published writing. The title refers to a sequence of three yoga positions that increase focus and build strength by shifting the body’s center of gravity. The objective is balance without stability. My writing addresses opposing tension in our world, and my attempt to find balance through understanding that opposition. During 2015-2106 I am cycling through all 48 mainland United States and asking the question "How will we live tomorrow?" That journey is chronicled in a dedicated blog, www.howwillwelivetomorrw.com, that includes personal writing related to my adventure as well as others' responses to my question. Thank you for visiting.
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2 Responses to Audiobook Orgy Part 1: Road Trip!

  1. john says:

    What are the “three yoga positions”?

    • paulefallon says:

      There are thousands of yoga positions. The Awkward pose has three components, each a variation of a squat. Photos are available at any website that shows the Bikram series poses.

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