Voiceworks Recommends: The New Yorker fiction podcast

Like all cultural connoisseurs, the thought of compiling your taste is something that’s tantalising to most. A staple for music journalists year-on-year, the notion of ‘the best of’ is something that’s been appropriated across all disciplines (it even works as a parting gift for leaders of the G8). Literary podcasts though, are a strange beast. The combination of the writer’s ego, a publication’s literary merit, and the degree to which you can concentrate on the damn thing, all need to be factored in. And, depending on your state of mind, some podcasts may either change your approach to storytelling, while others will grate, as you find out that some writers aren’t that great at reading aloud.

So that’s why I’m giving you only a choice of one: The New Yorker’s fiction podcast. And here’s why.

For one, it’s The New Yorker. If you’re a wordsmith, then there’s nothing quite like the validation this publication brings. Joining the ranks of Jonathan Franzen, Salman Rushdie, and Margaret Atwood would definitely give you brownie points — though listening to them is a whole other deal. Here, fiction editor Deborah Treisman, brings them to you. She chats to a writer published in The New Yorker, before they get to the chance to read their favourite New Yorker piece. For me, one of the great things about this podcast is the very fact that it gives you access to the some of the world’s best fiction. And it’s just you, the writer, and Deborah.

Not only that, but this podcast gives you the ability to transport yourself to somewhere completely different. Whether that be narrative’s setting, or whether that be illuminating an undiscovered literary canon, this podcast is peerless.

To start off, listen to Edwidge Danticat reading Jamaica Kinkaid’s short stories, ‘Girl’ and ‘Wingless’. As a piece of Carribean fiction, that’s what grabbed me first (and might entice you). As a Melburnian, Caribbean culture has never really held a prominent position here, despite this city’s cultural diversity. This podcast illuminated a side to post-colonial writing that I hadn’t yet discovered. For me, Kinkaid presents an interesting counterpoint to the traditional connotations of Commonwealth writers.  As an Antiguan-American writer, here was an example of the ’empire writing back’, yet it wasn’t a Canadian, Australian, or South African. Here’s what Danticat has to say about the pieces she read:

‘Her short pieces are meant to be read out loud. They feel like poems. They expanded for me, the idea of what you could do with fiction.’ 

Though, obviously you know I’m gushing here. When approaching the podcast, you also need to consider what writing appeals to you. Clearly, Kinkaid took me. But, regular listens do give you a sense of how to ‘read like a writer’. So, if you’re constantly told to read to boost your writing skills, here’s one shortcut. Hearing sentence structures and rhythm in real-time against the more formal elements of writing, give that added  dimension to fiction. Giving yourself up to the interpretation of a piece by another writer will make you think differently about your approach to writing, too.

So, take your picks based on the publications you admire, as well as the type of stories and writers you end up choosing. Some listens may be more frequent than others, and it’s always good to keep in mind how long listening to these will take (it’s a more of a ‘you’ll know it when you feel it’ thing). And, as some top an hour or so, an involved listen on the train will have you walking around aimlessly if a story’s really good (or at its best, push your to the brink of tears).

If you’ve got any more recommendations, do drop us a line on Twitter @VoiceworksMag

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