Podcasts are essential listening as I do my daily workout. Every morning, up before the birds, I do a series of stretches and a few other things (the plank, e.g.) for about half an hour. Then I’m ready.
So about a year ago I began looking for new listening material. Where to begin? As a first step I googled “interesting podcasts,” or something equally vague. Came across a list of podcasts with titles that bored me – except for one, Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People, or Beautiful/ Anonymous for short. Intrigued, I listened to an episode called “My Aussie Best Friend.” Got hooked.
Also began listening to Stay Tuned with Preet last summer, which I have described elsewhere. Still listen to that. A new one gets uploaded each Thursday. More recently I’ve become a convert to Pod Save America.
In a coffee shop the other day, I asked the woman behind the counter the meaning of her t-shirt, which read “Toxic Masculinity.” She said it was for (from?) a podcast called My Favorite Murder. I listened to an episode the next day. So far, so-so – but I’ll listen again. And I like the shirt.
You can find most, probably all, of these podcasts on your nearest smartphone, or on Podbay, among other places.
Even before all of the above, I was an occasional listener to This American Life, and its direct-to-podcast offspring Serial. These, in turn, led me to S-town.
S-town, or Shit Town if you prefer, turned out to be – pardon the cliché – haunting. It is, its website says, “about a man named John who despises his Alabama town and decides to do something about it.” He convinces a This American Life producer to investigate what John says is a murder/coverup in his shit little town.
S-town is a limited podcast spanning seven segments, or chapters, each one about an hour long. Midway through the second chapter it becomes clear there was, in fact, no murder or coverup. That should have been enough to send the producer packing back to New York. Except that something happened. If it hadn’t happened, there would have been no S-town podcast. But it did happen, and so there is.
No spoilers here. I shan’t spill any beans. I’ll only say that as I listened, I found myself recalling A Confederacy of Dunces, one of my favorite novels. Written in the early 1960s by John Kennedy Toole, and set in New Orleans, it is the story of Ignatius J. Reilly. “When a true genius appears in the world,” spake Jonathan Swift, “you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.”
Fictional genius Ignatius reminds me of S-town’s real-life genius John (above, with snake), known to most as John B. Among other things, John B created the maze seen below. The similarities are superficial, I’ll grant you that. Both of them way smart, both lonely and isolated southerners. That may be about it.
Anyway, I recommend it. All of these podcasts, even those I make only passing reference to, are recommend – with the possible exception of My Favorite Murder. I do like the t-shirt though.