I like podcasts a lot, as someone who works in a studio often on their own, I find that having short audio stories, documentaries or even comedy podcasts on whilst I work can be really useful in not just keeping me entertained, but simply maintaining my sanity. So I thought I’d spend this week’s blog post giving you five of the best podcasts I listen to. They may not all at first appear to be literary, but I’ll try and explain why they’re useful to listen to for writers.
If David Lynch did community radio it would probably sound something like Welcome to Night Vale, in which evil corporations brush against creepy kids, there are strange glowing orbs, insane librarians and a general sense of unease. Night Vale works because it fully commits to a world, and builds on it week by week. It is by turns, hilarious and scary.
If I had to pick one episode? The recent ‘Woman From Italy’ in which the titular woman appears to cast a spell on everyone in the town, without actually doing much at all.
A bit of a new one for me, Selected Shorts has guest hosts each episode (from Stephen Colbert, to Sally Field) and a theme from eccentricity, to John Updike and everything inbetween. The format is a compilation of short stories read by amazing readers, told live. It’s unpretentious, fun and simple.
If I had to pick one episode? The John Updike episode, with Sally Field reading one of Updike’s funniest pieces.
I am at my core, a huge genre fiction fan, and nothing gets me more exciting than new horror fiction. So it goes without saying that Nightmare Magazine’s fantastic podcast is right up my street. New audio fiction every two weeks, with authors like Conrad Williams, and Alison Littlewood being read out. It’s perfect for freaking you out.
If I had to pick one episode? Conrad Williams’ ‘The Owl’, it’s quietly unnerving, and read perfectly.
How Did This Get Made?
The funniest podcast I subscribe to, How Did This Get Made is also the least literary of the podcasts on this list. But there is a reason for its inclusion here. The premise of the show is simple: three comedians get together and make fun of a bad movie. It’s Mystery Science Theatre for the modern era. There are special guests who include Parks and Recreation’s Retta, and Dan Harmon and the show is hilarious. What it also does is allow for three people to discuss in depth, why something doesn’t work: why a narrative falls apart, why they don’t care about characters, why something doesn’t make sense. It’s a breakdown of what storytellers should and shouldn’t be doing, and as a writer it’s fascinating.
If I had to pick one episode? Oh, it’s tough. The Lexi Alexander episode, where she comes in to discuss what went wrong with the Punisher War Zone is a particular highlight, but the funniest is perhaps the After Earth episode, which devolves into an intense discussion on Scientology.
You already listen to this one, don’t you? Featuring writers picking, and then reading their favourite pieces published by the New Yorker, there are some fantastic stories unearthed, and some great discussions that take place. It’s a simple format, and the stories are well told, although some of the choices (hi Jonathan Franzen) can seem a little bit strange.
If I had to pick one episode? David Sedaris reading Miranda July. That should sell the whole thing to you.
So, those are some of my favourites, but there must be others out there that I haven’t heard of or listened to yet. What podcasts do you go for in the literary world? What do you listen to and why? Let me know in the comments.