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What to Listen To: The Other People Podcast

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I was introduced to the Other People podcast by author Blake Butler’s editor. Blake, best known as the founding editor of the popular literary website HTMLGIANT, had just published his first book of nonfiction, Nothing: A Portrait of Insomnia, and was making the media rounds. Other People had just interviewed him before his New York event and at the reading his editor couldn’t praise the episode highly enough.

I wrote down the name of the show so I wouldn’t forget, ran home, and subscribed. Ever since that day, the podcast has been at the top of my listening list. As soon as it downloads, every Wednesday and Sunday morning, it’s the first thing I play when I step out the door.

The twice-weekly, hour-long author interview podcast is hosted by Brad Listi, fiction author and founder of The Nervous Breakdown, a culture website and online literary community. As someone who spends his time reading, writing, and speaking with fellow authors, Brad started Other People because it was the type of show he wanted to hear but couldn’t find.

Other People, free from the time and editorial constraints of radio, takes the conversation beyond the same, mundane questions often asked of authors. After all, what’s more interesting to fellow writers than to hear someone talk about their writing process? Or for readers to get to know how an author approaches life, not just character development? In an interview with Fictionaut, Brad said that the show is meant to focus “on authors as people — who they are, where they’re from, [and] why they do what they do” and aims to be “more personal than the average book-related show.”

The interviews are a conversation rather than a formulaic Q&A, as if the host and guest are sitting on a couch drinking beer or coffee. This intimate back-and-forth doesn’t come about by accident; Brad is able to tease out these personal stories because he shares his own. He prefers interviews “where it’s a true dialogue on equal footing, rather than a one-way interrogation.” It’s this approach makes it possible to listen to an episode without having read an author’s work or having heard of them beforehand.

A careful and curious listener, Brad picks up on minor details, keeping the conversation spontaneous: Blake Butler speaks about his approach to Twitter, Dana Spiotta about the Seattle music scene in the 90s, Dennis Cooper about his practice of writing porn as a warm-up, and Elissa Schappell on why she prefers to stay away from literary events.

Before each interview, you’ll hear Brad’s 10 to 15-minute monologue — generally on a topic wildly unrelated to what follows. No matter how random or meandering it seems, it’s always a smart investigation into the host’s psyche. When Dana Spiotta mentioned his openings — and how she liked them — Brad called it “audio blogging” and said it lets “people know who you are”.

And therein lies the genius of Other People; with each episode, you learn more about Brad and get to know his guests in a unique and refreshing manner. Other People is consistently engrossing — one of the best podcasts I’ve come across and not likely to be trumped anytime soon. If you’re not already listening, you’re truly missing out on something incredible.

Besides the interviews linked to above, I recommend you listen to these:
Steve Almond
Darin Strauss
Tayari Jones
Adam Levin
Greg Olear
Emma Straub
Edan Lepucki

The Other People Podcast website
The Other People Podcast on Twitter
The Other People Podcast on Facebook
Interview with Brad Listi at Electric Literature
Interview with Brad Listi at HTMLGIANT
Interview with Brad Listi at Fictionaut

Written by Gabrielle

January 17, 2012 at 6:01 am


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