As leitmotifs go, it is one that can only exist in personal memory. The location and the book have nothing particularly in common, share no themes. Jonathan Franzen is hardly known as a great recorder of Hong Kong life, and there is little in a set piece about the dietary habits of New York's super rich to associate with the wilds of Lantau. Yet, I can no longer think of one without the other. There must be something in the relationship between audio books and memory because as an avid listener, I find that more and more of my memories are tied to what I was listening to at a given moment. To be sure, this is nothing new. People have long associated vacations with the books they read, movies with former lovers, summers with the songs on the radio. For me, it is just that the soundtrack of my life increasingly features audio books: getting progressively drunker on beer and failing to build an Ikea bed while listening to The Wind up Bird Chronicles; hiking up a rainy Korean mountain to the sound of 1984; cooking pasta in my house at university with The Castle on in the background; standing at a lonely Toronto street corner while learning about The Wisdom of Crowds, laughing outloud to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as I pulled into a local gas station. Sometimes the match between the book and memory is apt—rambling in Sussex to Notes from a Small Island and listening to Kafka at Hong Kong immigration come to mind—but most often they are like The Corrections and a glade a little south of Tai-O—a locale and story connected only by me and my iPod.
Jeff Zroback / Co-editor
20 November, 2011