Friday, April 04, 2008

Wearing Out My Headphones

If you have a mind-numbing job like mine, looking at code and numbers all day, the right soundtrack can save your sanity. I'm still loyal to the podcasts on my sidebar, but here are a few new (to me) things I'm digging a whole lot:

Slate's Audio Book Club. It's like eavesdropping on a discussion in the professors' lounge. I loved the way they managed to contrast the treatment of social class in Joan Didion vs. Edith Wharton, both writers with access to the jetset lifestyle of their day. In Didion's THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING, the events of the story assert how irrelevant one's social standing becomes when the big transitions of life go down. But in Wharton's THE HOUSE OF MIRTH, the demands of class are the arbiters of fate, and the characters (and narrator) are aware of the pitfalls of the game, even as they play it, with tragic consequenses. We should all have a book club as smart and passionate as Stephen Metcalf, Meghan O'Rourke, and Katie Roiphe, who don't just sit around and agree on everything. Sparks fly.

The New Yorker Fiction Podcast. Fiction editor Deborah Treisman talks with current New Yorker authors about short stories from the archive. What I love about this is the same thing I love about Slate--I get to hear thoughtful readers talk about the experience of reading. They pick apart the choices made by the author, with the eyes of a fellows writer and/or editors. And the most important part: the writer isn't present. It's a refreshing change from the author interviews I listen to frequently, reminds me what this literature thing is all about: scattering seeds out there in the world to take on lives of their own in other people's brains. I enjoyed hearing Antonya Nelson read Mavis Gallant's short story "When We Were Nearly Young," set in Madrid, then talk about what attracts her to Gallant's work, primarily the nonresolution of endings.

Conjunctions Audio Vault. It's not a podcast, but it's a great RealAudio archive. Groove with me on John Barth's "I've Been Told: A Story's Story," narrated from a story's POV. (An "old fart" story, at that.) Breakneck delivery, full of musical vocal nuance, worth a repeat listen or two.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am partial to audio books when doing my mind numbing job. Just heard "Dead as a Doornail" a mediocre book about the trials and tribulations of Sookie, friend with the Vampires and shape shifters. At the very least it saved my sanity this week. I just started "Skinny Dipping" where in the first page you realize the main character was thrown off a cruise ship by her husband and unbeknownst to him managed to survive (now she's messing with his mind) Seriously, I am bored!

12:03 AM  
Blogger Ann Hite said...

You should try Writers on Writing podcast. It is one of the best I've came across. I listen faithfully. I like the New Yorker Fiction too. Also Selected Shorts is excellent. Try them out.


8:23 AM  
Blogger Anne said...

Gee: I've listened to audio books at work too. Do you use There's free ones too, on Librivox.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Anne said...

Ann: I'm a fan of Writers on Writing. She's introduced me to some of my (now) favorite writers. Thanks for the tip on Selected Shorts. I didn't know they had a podcast. I've been listening and enjoying.

3:18 PM  

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