The New Yorker’s Fiction Podcast: Where Great Writers Read Stories by Great Writers

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:

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.

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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