What are Podcasts?
Pieces of auditory journalism?
Well-funded and constructed opinions?
Brian Reed’s S-town does little to help answer these questions. He takes us down to Woodstock, Alabama for what seemed to be a cliché but still mildly intriguing murder mystery only to rip apart the town’s recluse in a well-crafted auditory collage of the town’s inhabitants.
All fine and dandy work.
Except…for the commentary.
Yes, it is necessary in a medium such as podcasts for the narrator to provide their own input to make the story conversationally digestible but Reed takes it to a whole other level. He writhes within whichever genre he decides that particular chapter to be. I had to keep listening out of intrigue to see which genre he decided to land on…only to not have a true answer.
Now, I won’t deny that I thoroughly enjoyed the world crafted by Reed but as a southerner myself, I can’t help but smell that something is a little funky in the portrayal of all of this. Podcasts, in general, have never been my preferred medium, so my view is already slightly tainted, so combined with the shiftiness of Reed’s depiction, I am left with a rather curdled feeling in my gut.
One that could inspire the creation of my own S-town.
Falling into a story is an immersive experience; one paralleled to falling into the mystique of a carefully crafted illusion.
One facet of the storyline serves as the mining car tunneling deep into the depths of the fabricated world. As you travel physically deeper into the book, the connection to the pages grows to that of adoration, much like when you transfer from the use of an artist’s stage name to their personal first name as their performance progresses. An audiobook fundamentally changes that experience.
The audiobook version of The Night Circus creates the Inception equivalent experience for a novel. A circus that travels the world with interweaving narratives with such complexity and depth, its physical manifestation could hang along the tapestries crafted by Iroquois matriarchs. Jim Dale’s phonetically buttery voice smooths over the breaks in plotline just as DiCaprio’s good looks smoothed any frustration from lack of comprehension.
While a tangible connection to a story is something that can never be recreated poignantly, audiobooks are successfully creating a whole new cognitive experience. I am quickly finding myself craving it as I scan the carcass of a book.
Physical books will forever be M&Ms: nostalgic, classic, and dependable. Audiobooks are Almond M&Ms: a full-bodied twist that are insanely addictive.
Closing Pierre is much like that of shutting the door on your distant relatives after Thanksgiving dinner; you are somewhat physically satisfied but are also left with a sizable emotional hole, about that of a whale, in your chest. The book’s problems stem from the fact Melville wrote Pierre to be a loaded ham …on Thanksgiving… in turkey country. Pierre Glendinning was unable to sink his interests into his mother, his fiancé, and himself as soundly as we sink into mashed potatoes, but he certainly gripped hard onto his (second?) dinner roll: his (maybe) half-sister. This incestuous struggle was even more blurred by Melville’s personal tirades about his own personal woes with his bromances (Hawthorne and publishers alike) which left a rather bitter after taste like that of canned cranberry jelly. I did enjoy the tiny morsels of dialogue dropped haphazardly throughout the meal as it would lure me back in even when my mental belt was on its last loop. The enjoyment was brief as the erratic psychological and philosophical babble staled the room much like my Aunt Patrice’s fifth spritz of Chanel No. 5. While Melville’s, I mean, Pierre’s stream of consciousness was unable to discontinuously continue for as long as Melville would have liked, the headache I am left with has enough serotonin to rival even the most potent of my post-Thanksgiving naps.