I haven’t quite succumbed to the temptation to listen to issues of New Yorker, but the New Yorker podcasts (and their blogs, for that matter) offer a pretty rich pool of stories.
On the weekly Political Scene, some of the magazine’s best writers, including Hendrick Hertzberg, George Packer, Evan Osnos, Amy Davidson, Jeffrey Toobin, Elizabeth Kolbert and editor David Remnick discuss various themes, from Syria to the Supreme Court to Global Warming.
The fiction podcast is often great, with New Yorker fiction writers picking a favorite from the magazine’s archives, reading it aloud then discussing it with Fiction Editor Deborah Treisman. In recent shows, James Salter read Reynolds Price, another featured Daniel Alarcon reading Roberto Bolano.
Most unpredictable is the Out Loud podcast, which can be very interesting (Dexter Filkins and George Packer discussing the legacy of our involvement in Iraq) or less so.
A recent Out Loud featuring critic Daniel Mendelsohn veered off in interesting directions when he touched on the human tendency to think that whatever is going on now in culture and in the world is, essentially, the end of the world. It’s been going on for generations (rock and roll and TV being more recent indicators of impending doom), each of us believing that this time it really is the end of the world, or at least of civility, or thoughtfulness or what have you.
In his criticism pieces, Mendelsohn often touches on Greek and Roman culture. The word “idiot” he points out, is derived from the Greek meaning “private person.” Privacy was incredibly important to the Greeks, and those who showed themselves too much were labelled “idiots.” Meaning we, with our constant tweets and Facebook postings, are all idiots by the classic Greek definition.
He prefers to take the long view, Mendelsohn said. Everyone thinks the world is ending but all these shifts are so small when you step back and look at history through a long lens. Where we are now, he said, “It may not be the end of the world, but it is the end of my world.”