Musician publishes book of eavesdropped cell phone calls

A small press lends an ear to the airwaves.

By Craig Offman
Published September 14, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)
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After nearly 10 months of delays, Incommunicado Press has finally released its controversial book, "I Listen: A Document of Digital Voyeurism." A collection of transcripts of eavesdropped cell phone conversations, "I Listen" is the brainchild of a 29-year-old musician from San Diego who calls himself the Spacew|rm.

Others, such as Scanner, have experimented with this kind of "found sound," but putting the conversations in print poses problems -- legal ones. "At first, we had planned on printing it verbatim. Last names, first names, everything," explains Incommunicado's publisher, Gary Hustwit. "Some things, though, we omitted because we thought it would be a little risky. But again, the odds of someone reading this book who has a call in it are a million to one." Hustwit held off publishing the book while "making sure that legally we had the right to do this." (Incommunicado's relocation from San Diego to New York also delayed the publication of "I Listen.")

The conversations, which the Spacew|rm obtained using a modified police scanner, range from the mundane exchanges of everyday life to profane recollections about sex in public washrooms. ("And you know what, people were watching us, the people in the stalls," one of the Spacew|rm's subjects recalls.) Hustwit would not confirm a rumor that there may be celebrity calls in the book, but he is emphatic that the Spacew|rm is not a member of the sonic paparazzi "It's not like he's targeting me or you or Newt Gingrich or celebrities who have been targeted by other people. It's random. If you turn on the scanner, there are all these calls just flying through the air, every second."

Although Hustwit would not reveal the Spacew|rm's real name and occupation, he did say that his author is a big Spice Girls fan. "He has every Spice Girls toy and stuff that came out during the Spice Girls boom."

Craig Offman

Craig Offman is the New York correspondent for Salon Books.

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