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The New Yorker: Fiction Podcast

Podcast contains all the grit, violence and sensuality of adult fiction

By Jocelyn Bell

You don’t have to be tucked in bed, jammies on and teeth brushed to experience the joy of having someone read you a story.

With The New Yorker: Fiction podcast, you could be like me on my daily commute — sitting comfortably on the train listening through my iPod as a story-teller transports me to a faraway place.

Each episode follows the same formula. A well-known fiction writer chooses a favourite short story — by another author — from the magazine’s archives, which date back to the 1930s. New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman sits down with the writer to discuss the story and prep the listener. The writer reads the story aloud, which can take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes. Afterward, Treisman and the writer discuss the story again in more detail.

Getting published in The New Yorker is something of a holy grail for fiction writers. The magazine receives about 200 submissions per week, publishing only one. In recent months, I’ve enjoyed A.M. Homes reading Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery; Thomas McGuane reading James Salter’s Last Night; and Tobias Wolff reading Denis Johnson’s Emergency. These short stories are not children’s fairytales; they contain all the grit, violence and sensuality of adult fiction.

But it’s the discussions that bookend the reading that make these podcasts most stimulating. Listening to the back-and-forth between writer and editor is like joining a book club or auditing a lively university English class. Their insights attune the listener to the skill involved in crafting a piece of short fiction.

The only downside is that the New Yorker only releases one new podcast per month. If the magazine can pluck a good story out of 200 manuscripts for publication every week, surely it can read one aloud, too.
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