In this month's installment, let's look at podcasts related to writing. I am a huge fan of literary podcasts (especially the ones from BBC Radio 3 and 4 and, of course, NPR) because I get to listen to conversations with favorite writers from the comfort of my home, at my convenience, and while I'm multi-tasking. The podcasts I am listing below, however, are ones I have stuck with for more than three years or so. I do not listen to every single episode but I do subscribe to their feeds. One thing I will say upfront about these is that they are not as diverse as I would like them to be. To be clear, I do not mean only in terms of racial or ethnic diversity, though that is also a gap, but diversity in terms of gender identity, class, caste, sexuality, disability, etc. I do hope this will improve over time.
Recently, an acquaintance, let us call her X, asked me how she could start a reading habit. Given that she is close to my age, I asked her what kinds of things she liked to read, thinking I might offer her some book suggestions. Consider my surprise when she confessed that she could not remember the last time she had read an entire book. “But I read a lot of news and stuff online,” she said in her own defense. When I shared this with some other reader friends, they admitted to their own difficulties with reading as much as they used to, especially fiction. Some said there was enough drama going on around the world, so they did not feel a need to read fictionalized drama. Some, like X, said they read online and did not care about offline reading. And there were the odd few who said they “prefer to experience life rather than reading about it.”
Last October, I went the predictable route with a collection of horror stories for Halloween. This month, let's turn to fairytale retellings, one of my favorite fiction sub-genres. As with many readers and writers, fairytales, with all their enchantment, magic, and fantasy aspects were my first thrilling introduction to storytelling. And these retellings for adults not only subvert the usual, tired tropes — the damsel in distress, the wicked witch, the handsome prince, the evil giant, etc. — but give us more complex and nuanced worlds and characters. Many famous writers have tried their hand, through novels and short stories, at both revisionist retellings of ancient fairytales and creating original ones of their own. We'll get to the latter another month. For now, let's take a look at the traditional, well-known ones that have been retold and made entirely new by these writers: Angela Carter, Susan Scarf Merrell, Robert Coover, Jennifer Wortman, and Michael Cunningham.