Firstly, I would like to ask you what your opinions on podcasts are? I have little to no experience in regards to podcasts due to the fact that I am more of a fan of visual media. My brain processes much better when I not only have an auditory factor but also a visual factor. By this description, I enjoy shows and movies more than I do podcasts. I also find it very interesting when people say that they are capable of multitasking when listening to a podcast. I had issues focusing and comprehending audio books so I had the same experience when listening to a podcast. I know people who are able to listen to a podcast while doing other tasks such as driving or cooking. From prior experience, I have learned that my own self, is not capable of multitasking while listening to something that is complex with a plethora of details.
Now let’s get into the most recent podcast that I listened to, “S-town.” I can honestly say that when I first began listening to this, I was unaware that it was a podcast. I thought that this was an audio book that was being read to me due to the fact that Bryan Reed’s words seemed very scripted. It wasn’t until he started to implement phone calls with John B that I figured out that this was not an audiobook (you’re probably thinking this is quite sad; however, this is an honest review of my experience with “S-Town”). I felt as though episode 1 of this podcast did an adequate job of catching my attention. The way the material was presented, with this random man from a random town in Alabama claiming there was an unsolved mystery. I was intrigued and wanted to know more about this “murder.” Episode 2 also kept me on the edge of my seat but it took a drastic turn at the very end of this episode. When we discovered that this “murder” that John B had discussed in his emails and phone calls was not actually a murder, I was quite perplexed on where exactly this podcast could go from there. Once it was revealed that John B had killed himself, I became even more perplexed on how there was still several more episodes that I had to listen to. I would classify episodes 1 and 2 as well thought out and interesting. However, I felt as though this story began to decline beginning with episode 3. The rest of the episodes were solely about John B and what was going to happen to the life that he left behind. I found myself dragging through these episodes, just waiting for a purpose to develop. Unfortunately, I do not believe that I ever found this underlying purpose. I also found the majority of the presented information to be unnecessary. For example, Bryan Reed investigates this idea of mercury poisoning. After all of his investigations, the conclusion that he came to was that it was possible that John B MAY have developed mercury poisoning. I found the last 5 episodes to be quite disappointing due to lack of content and purpose.
As for the ethics that this podcast, I have a few thoughts that I would like to entertain you with. There were several instances where I thought that some of the things that Bryan Reed did were questionable but it was not until after I discovered the long list of lawsuits that NPR was receiving for this podcast that I realized all of the unethical activities. There was one distinct part of this story that rubbed me the wrong way. This was after John B had passed away. Bryan Reed put a segment of conversation that he had had with John B prior to his death. This conversation discussed John B’s sexuality and at one point, John B asked Bryan Reed to stop recording so that he could tell him something. Bryan Reed did stop the recording; however, he decided to repeat what John B said off the record in his own words. He claimed that he had two reasons for thinking that this was okay. He said that one, John B was no longer around and two, that John B was an atheist. I’m not exactly sure how either of these reasons lead Reed to believe that telling this private information without permission was acceptable. I felt as though the further along I got into the podcast, the more the story became an exploitation of the people in Woodstock, Alabama rather than a story with plot and purpose.
“And there are never really endings, happy or otherwise. Things keep going on, they overlap and blur, your story is part of your sister’s story is part of many other stories, and there is no telling where any of them may lead.” (Erin Morgenstern)
The story of “The Night Circus” is full of excitement, sorrow, fear, and suspense. This combination equates to a fulfilling read or listen that left me engaged and wanting to know more. The story begins in darkness with only black and white surroundings. This blank canvas is then revealed to be a circus known as “Le Cirque des Reves.” This minimalistic introduction left me wanting to investigate deeper into what exactly this black and white circus indeed was. Throughout the first portion of this book, I felt as though I was being told three different stories- one about Celia, one about Marco, and one about Bailey. As these stories began to unfold, I found a connection between Celia and Marco’s; however, I was left wondering what the significance of Bailey’s character was until the end of the book. I enjoyed the fact that this story was told from multiple point of views. At times, I had more insight on the story than certain characters had. For example, I discovered that Marco knew that Celia was his competitor early on; however, Celia was unaware of this until later on when they found themselves out in the pouring rain discussing Marco’s magical umbrella. I felt as though I was a part of the story, as if I was an insider. The “competition” between Marco and Celia was more of a death match that never seemed to be resolved. As I was listening to this dramatic, obsessive, love challenge, I was left pondering how exactly this could end in harmony. Speaking of the end, I was unimpressed with the choice of plot. I will say that the love “suicide” was an unexpected twist, but I felt as though this was the easy way out. I was left wondering what exactly happened to Celia and Marco and what their “death” choice meant for the circus. Even though I did not enjoy this drastic end to the competition, I found it fascinating that the very end of this book became a loop with Widget beginning to tell Mr. A.H. the story of “The Night Circus.” In my mind, this signified that the story was not over, it was only beginning again.
I would like to ask all of you a particular question regarding your own intricate way of processing information. If a review such as this one were read to you, do you believe that it would be processed and taken in the same way as if you had read it yourself? Do you believe that you would have read this review the same way that I would have spoken it? To answer my own question, I do not believe that the act of reading a physical book is synonymous with listening to it. “The Night Circus” was the first book that I had ever listened to through an audiobook. I felt as though I was being forced to perceive a character in the way that the reader wanted me to rather than how I would if I was reading the physical book. I felt as though certain scenes were dramatized in a way that felt unrealistic. For example, the scene where Marco first laid eyes on Celia at her audition was told in a way that forced me to feel as though Marco was looking at some sort of angel. The way it was told to me made me think that Marco had an ill obsession with Celia. However, if I had read this myself, I would have concluded that Marco saw this first encounter with Celia as the start of a love story rather than a fantasized fixation. Another issue that arose while I was listening to the audiobook was the setting and characters. It took me several chapters to develop my awareness of who was who. The first few chapters became a blur because I was unable to map out which characters were connected and which characters were irrelevant until I progressed further into the book. As for the setting, it felt as though each chapter was in a different location and was discussing a different character. It also took me quite some time to become accustomed to settings and dates. However, I felt as though if I had physically read the names and setting with my own eyes, it would have taken me much less time to become accustomed, and I would have been able to follow the plot much easier.
Pierre by Herman Melville was an interesting book to say the least. Honestly, it was unlike any of the books that I have read before. In my opinion, the plot of the book was adequate. It kept me engaged and made me want to continue reading. It had lots of very unexpected events and decisions which were exciting. These events included Pierre deciding to “marry” his sister, Pierre finding out his mother had died 25 days after she was in the ground, and Pierre, his sister, and his long-lost lover, Lucy, deciding to kill themselves (in one single page). However, it had some extremely strange parts that left me puzzled. For example, the book began and Pierre continuously called his mother sister and his mother continuously called him brother. I found this quite strange and a little disturbing. His obsessions were also quite strange, especially his obsession with his mother and his family line. He could talk about his family line for 50 pages and I could not have been less interested.
Now I know that I said the plot of the book was good, but the difficult part was finding the plot amongst Pierre’s long drawn out inner thoughts and feelings. It was incredibly difficult to restrain myself from skipping over his thoughts and going straight to each tidbit of plot that Melville gave us every now and then. Personally, I think that this book could have been written in 100 pages or less if the plot would have been the main focus. For most books, the plot is usually the most important and pronounced part. However, for Pierre, the plot was just sprinkled here and there. The main focus was what was going on in the head of Pierre. This may have been interesting to some people but I had little to no interest in learning about Pierre’s grandfather or about his thoughts when he laid in bed at night or about a rock. He talked about a rock for several pages. Just a rock. Melville also added a portion of the book after he published it that, to me, had little to no relevance. Pierre went from trying to find a home for himself, his sister, and Delly, to becoming an author. It was a very strange sequence of events that felt rushed. There were portions of the book that felt incredibly rushed such as the ending, and then there were portions that felt unbearably slow. It was as if Melville was always on one side of the spectrum and never in the middle like he should have been.
Melville’s style of writing made me very angry. However, the story was intriguing and I enjoyed it. I think that he put more than enough unnecessary details in this book. I would have enjoyed this book a lot more if he would have sprinkled unnecessary details in with the plot rather than sprinkling the plot in with all of the unnecessary details. Overall, I would not recommend this book to anyone that is not assigned to read it. If you are assigned to read it, find those sprinkles of plot.