Wearing Out My Headphones
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.