Random Musings: Literary Podcasts

I am old school when it comes to book reviews, author interviews and literary discussions. I prefer reading to watching or listening. Mainly this is due to time constraints. I can read most articles in just a few minutes whereas audio and visual content demands a much longer time commitment. I prefer to devote that extended time to reading books.

Last year my favourite book prize, the Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses, announced that it was starting a podcast. I was dismayed. Then, when I read of the books, participants and discussions being featured I grew curious.

The episodes released varied in length but required that a significant block of time be made available. To listen I had to find a space within my day. The obvious place, where I would benefit from a distraction, was the gym. After presenting my cost-benefit analysis my husband kindly gifted me a set of headphones. Many fruitless attempts to download episodes to my phone for offline listening later (I don’t use Apple products or have internet access at the gym) I found a means of carrying audio content with me (I use Castbox, available for android).

Listening to podcasts while cycling nowhere or working out on a cross trainer has proved effective at taking my mind off how tiring and tiresome these activities can be. I quickly worked my way through each of the Republic of Consciousness podcasts and sought out alternatives to supplement the time I have available each week. I now have a backlog of interesting book discussions to listen to, thereby working both my heart and mind.

The Republic of Consciousness Podcast for Small Presses

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“The Republic of Consciousness Podcast comes out about 3 times a month. It’ll be a bit different each time, but expect interviews, readings, and some regular features, such as our Book of the Month.”

Bookmunch Podcast

No dedicated page as yet but first two episodes may be found here:
Episode 1 – Emma Glass (Peach)
Episode 2 – Adam Foulds (Dream Sequence)

Why Why Why: The Books Podcast

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“We ask writers why they wrote the book they wrote, editors why they published the book, and readers why they picked up the book and read it.”

 

I realise that I am probably late to the party but I am enjoying these audio broadcasts given that they fill a time slot when reading would be difficult. It goes to show that trying new things can sometimes be worthwhile.

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Book Review: Six Stories

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Six Stories, by Matt Wesolowski, is a murder mystery told in the form of transcripts from a series of podcasts. This original construction took some getting used to, perhaps because I do not choose to listen to the popular broadcast medium. I am not a fan of audio or visual discussion or reporting, also eschewing vlogs and their ilk. I prefer to savour the written word, which to be fair is exactly what is offered here.

The tale is told in the six broadcast episodes. To be more precise, the same tale is told from six differing perspectives. The concept for these podcasts is that the reader (listener) should be offered up the facts of a now forgotten, never fully explained controversial incident and then be left to make up their own mind as to what actually happened. In this way it is similar to recent TV programmes such as Making a Murderer – which I watched a few times before growing bored with the repetition. Six Stories also contains repetition but, despite this, the author has succeeded in maintaining the intrigue and tension. Its approach reminded me of local gossip, where behaviour is dissected and judged based on personal prejudices and ideals.

The incident being investigated is the unexplained death of a fifteen year old boy, Tom Jeffries, who disappeared twenty years ago whilst away from home on an informal outward bound type weekend. His badly decomposed body was discovered after a year by a group of twenty-something year old privileged young men, one of whose father still owns the land.

Tom had been one of a group of five teenagers who had been regular visitors to the area, Scarclaw Fell, which harbours the raft of spooky myths common for an isolated location. The young people are tracked down by the podcast maker and interviewed, along with family members, former teachers and local residents, to determine if the interactions and dynamics within the group could shed light on what happened so long ago.

What they relate of the trips away is that the adults believed they were enabling the supposedly sensible teenagers to enjoy healthy, outdoor pursuits while the youngsters took the freedom granted as an opportunity to ingest copious quantities of alcohol and other drugs. There were the usual plays for power and some all too typical bullying.

“You see, the thing is, unless you’ve been on the other end of bullying, you don’t really know how much these smaller things can affect you. People’s perception of bullying is still so archaic or cliched: the ‘give us your dinner money’ schoolyard stuff, or else the ‘OMG you’re so ugly’ stuff online. [] bullied [] in a professional way. […] It’s the little things – the name-calling, the comments, the giggles when your back’s turned. That’s how the professionals do it. Like water-torture, or death by a thousand cuts. ‘Professional’ bullies crush your soul a sliver at a time.”

The alphas were mimicked by those who admired them and had yet to find their own niche, something recognised and derided by their peers.

“He didn’t have any personality of his own. He borrowed everything.”

The background and exploits shared demonstrate how self-absorbed and fickle memory can be. I did wonder why these now settled thirty-five year olds, who no longer interact, would agree to talk to someone about their teenage high jinks – which are always likely to contain embarrassing details – knowing that they will then be publicly shared. However, the popular and enigmatic investigator has a reputation for presenting his findings without the usual edits and distortions. He creates a compelling story, although if other media outlets take an interest the risk of public judgement and condemnation for the participants is only likely to increase.

There is much to be said for presenting a murder mystery in an original format and I was quickly drawn into this tale. The denouement was unexpected with a few threads left for the reader to interpret. Just as the podcasts were designed to encourage discussion amongst listeners, so the tale raises issues it would be interesting to further consider. With this in mind, it would be a perfect choice for a Book Group.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher.

This review is a stop on the Six Stories Blog Tour. Do check out the other posts, detailed below. 

Six Stories is published by Orenda Books.

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