Monday, January 7, 2013

Hearing is Believing

I teach an "intermediate creative nonfiction" class here at Dartmouth College. This term, I'm teaching it as "Ordinary Extraordinary: Literary Journalism, the Lyric Essay, and the Art of Fact." However I teach it, though, I always like to start with a bit of sound. I used to use Scott Carrier's This American Life piece, "The Test." But I've decided it's too bleak -- brilliantly bleak -- to begin a course with. (In the course of looking for that piece online again, I found this fabulous archive of all of Carrier's uncanny stories. As I write, I'm listening to his portrait of Charles Bowden, one of my favorite writers.

Last year, I used Quince Mountain's very funny, and very sharp reading of his story "Cowboy for Christ" at the launch party for Believer, Beware, a book I co-edited with the staff of Killing the Buddha. I asked my students to break into workshopping by workshopping this reading. But Quince is well past that writing now, so it seems too far past.

Right now I'm leaning toward Larry Masset's "A Night on Mt. Shasta." Twenty years ago, long before This American Life, I sat on the floor in a room at Hampshire College one night while a strange man named Masset played this story and others. That night was part of how I became a writer. I haven't listened to the story since, until today.

But I'm still poking around. Some audio documentary/storytelling sites worth remembering: The Moth. (Every hipster knows this site, but not everyone is a hipster.) Mortified Angst. Radio Diaries. TransomRisk. Hearing Voices. Third Coast Festival.