Each major print publication expands into podcasting differently. Some, having failed to find a suitable form for the audio companion to their text, scale the operation way back and declare podcasting dead or dying. Others, through trial and error, eventually happen upon a way of podcasting that clicks with both their own sensibility as well as their readers’ listening fascinations. The New Yorker’s fiction podcast stands as an example of the latter, trading on more than one of the magazine’s strengths. As one of the longest-running and last remaining venues for the short story, the New Yorker has access to a wealth of fiction that one can read out loud within a comfortable podcast runtime. Given their countless connections to respected writers, they’ve also got access to plenty of interesting people to do the reading.
Here’s the big innovation: these writers don’t read their stories out loud; they read their favorite stories by other writers out loud. This has brought us podcasts from, to name a few pairings:
- Richard Ford reading John Cheever
- Jhumpa Lahiri reading William Trevor
- Joyce Carol Oates reading Eudora Welty
- Paul Theroux reading Jorge Luis Borges
In the past year, we’ve also heard Allegra Goodman read John Updike, Salman Rushdie read John Barthelme, and Matthew Klam read Charles D’Ambrosio. (A new episode appears every month.) The readers also have a brief discussion about the story they’ve selected with the New Yorker‘s fiction editor Deborah Treisman. Being writers themselves, they talk about the pieces with a much different sort of scrutiny than you might remember from all those hours of short-story analysis in English class. They engage, to put it broadly, more with the writing’s craft than with its testable mechanics. Some podcast-listeners wonder aloud about the place of fiction in this new form; the New Yorker has developed a place for it by looking back to an old one.
The recordings above have been indexed in our collection of Free Audio Books.