June 13, 2005
Kerry Seed, stalwart reviewer, is taking a little leave to concentrate on grant-writing for Blunt Youth work and whatever else he’s got on his plate. We’ll miss him. He’ll be back.
Two new EB members starting this month:
Phil Corriveau, Director of Radio for Wisconsin Public Radio, is on active EB duty.
Here’s his fine first review of “Who’s Your Daddy,” a Sean Cole piece. And Phil gets gold star for reviewing a timely dad segment well in advance of Father’s Day.
This piece is quite sensual with a first person narrative that is enjoyable to listen to. The pictures that Jenny paints are imaginative and engaging, as she tells the story of her thought process and decisions about having a baby. The pace is relaxed and comfortable, but it doesn’t drag. The style is very much like that of Ira Glass and “This American Life”, with good use of music and introspective story telling. The story is so good that it needed little editing, and was moved along nicely by the producer. The end of the story takes an interesting twist of self-discovery. More than just a piece about a woman’s biological clock, this narrative is an essay of self-exploration as it relates to a woman’s decision to have a child. I listened to the piece several times and liked it more each time, although the ending isn’t quite as strong as the rest of the work because it lost a bit of focus for me. Production values are high, and the overall quality of the piece is excellent.
Independent producer and ex-pat Marjorie Van Halteren was one of PRX’s ten most active reviewers last year, and we’re pleased she’s willing to join the ranks of European EB members.
Words from Marjorie:
I have lived abroad since 1992 — my habitual listening of today is BBC Radio 4, France Inter (French), prx of course (my only real connection with American radio), and I have recently become an i-podder — so I am a former public radio listener gone completely astray and unstuck.
I still continue to produce radio — most recently for the audio art slot Between the Ears on BBC radio 3 (of which I’m particularly proud because it’s very competitive, especially for a non-UK producer), and for Entre Deux Amies, a little production company I’ve put together with my friend Helen Englehardt. The idea is only to make some pieces we feel like making. Plus I’m trying to contribute an American voice from “over there” — and my decision to start producing for the US again was directly inspired by Transom and The Public Radio Exchange.
As a reviewer, I’m not impervious to the problems of programmers. During my producing career in the US I worked at a public radio station for about ten years and know all too well how a station is a hungry beast that must be fed to stay alive. However, I made a personal choice to withdraw from trying to make a living from the radio — because rather than working fast and going for quantity I feel forced to opt instead for the qualities of reflection, time, process, and penetrating to the heart of what I’m doing. So for my own work I will rejoice over the carriage of two stations or 102. I feel I don’t have a choice.
So I would particularly enjoy work that breaks the mold — work that has the audacity to try for art in this “disposable” medium — I have hopes that PRX, with its catalog approach, might be able to keep works around long enough so that something that someone has put so much of their time and reflection into can be heard again and again, however it might deserve.
I have what I admit is a rather annoying prejudice against the idea that radio is a low-rent medium, wherein resides stuff that would adore to be on commercial radio, or in Hollywood or on junk television — except that it just isn’t good enough to compete there for the money available – so it sets its sights lower – on public or community radio – and eats up the small money it can get there. I also hate it when Public Radio puts on airs and sets out rules of style and thinks of itself as “The Big Time.” I prefer so much to hear things that are honest, passionate, authentic, and just plain out there. With the whole thing splintering into a million pieces with point-to-many broadcasting turning into point-to-point broadcasting, the game is over anyway. Enjoy!
Geo Beach rarely awards 5 stars, but always writes thorough, thoughtful reviews. Here’s his 5 star review of a 5 star piece.
Review of Norman Mailer: A Novelist in a Time of War by Geo Beach
The job of journalism is to tell the story – factually AND truthfully – and a mere recitation of governmental data does not inevitably render a faithful picture of reality.
As partial antidote, the thought-provoking Nieman Narrative director Mark Kramer convinced Norman Mailer to present to a thousand journalists at the 2004 Narrative Conference. And public radio listeners are the lucky beneficiaries of this further Nieman outreach through PRX, “A novelist in a time of war”.
“[Mailer] ambled into view, supported by two canes. Always short, now wizened, wearing his ears like sideview mirrors, he looked Yoda-like in every sense… the generosity and zest and heat of an old writer still fighting his fight, still practicing his spooky art.” wrote Poynter Institute’s Roy Peter Clark.
Mailer offers equal opportunity censure of parties in and out of power, and the media that purports to cover them. But the thesis for his presentation is a commonality — the novelist and journalist each trying to find a better approach to “the established truth”, which is skewed by the powerful. Perhaps some repeaters were fashioned into reporters as a result.
Mailer deploys the novelist’s metaphoric insight on George W Bush, “neither an athlete nor a fighter pilot, but a cheerleader” – but also recognizes W is not stupid. A secular Jew (his theological digression on the nature of small-g god the creator, and reincarnation as celestial editing, is but one glorious chapter here), Mailer challenges Democrats and journalists alike to consider how recognizing Jesus might be beneficial.
And, with a thud, Mailer poses our largest question as a divided country, “Why are we in Iraq?
“Like most large topics, [that] present[s] no quick answers.”
Which for today’s fast-media nation means the question isn’t genuinely pursued.
But Mailer’s approach to “brood along as a novelist” is close kin to public radio’s ways of apprehending the world. Radio is suffused in narrative storytelling.
Mailer’s closing benediction is, “Long may good questions prevail. They are imperiled.”
However listeners answer Norman Mailer’s good questions brooding through this hour, they will inform themselves far more than would a rollover of soundbites from those purveyors and repeaters of government data. “A novelist in a time of war” offers public radio the opportunity to commit leadership in journalism again. Crack the spine.
You, too, can review anything on PRX! Click on a piece, listen to the free stream and then review!
—Sydney Lewis, Transom.org