All week I’ve been in the nether regions, the sticks, the country, the bucolic boonies, the hinterregions of the backwoods, fretting over how much I’d have to read to you upon my return, how many hours I’d have to try my larynx to make it up to you, just how many stories I’d have to penitently tell. I worried whether I’d still be able to read at all, for sources had said that that part of the land is full of heathens, of illiterates, of INGRATES! Fortunately, in fact, the people in that part of the land were full of nothing but good cheer and good will, and I never questioned their ability to read, and I myself returned wtih literacy intact. Whether my oral storytelling skills were preserved as well, I’m not sure– here’s a nice long one to put them to the test.
There’s a common Yoruban idiom, “oruko lonro ni,” which means, more or less, that your name affects your actions, defines your character, determines your destiny. For instance, if you’re named Lady, you’re going to end up exceptionally feminine. If your parents were brazen enough to name you Klepto, you might find yourself in a spot of trouble. And if your name (or even your nom de guerrotype) is Miette, well, you end up very crumbly. Which is better than crumby, by just about all accounts, if nothing else.
And if your name is Fielding Dawson? Who can say? Just one wad of spare triviatum, delivered your way.
What else is a podcastress to do when a great writer dies? Sheckley wrote hundreds of exceptional stories, hundreds, and though I wouldn’t rate this one his best (I See a Man Sitting in a Chair, and the Chair is Biting His Leg rates high on my list, and very few of life’s experiences top a first glance at Can You Feel Anything When I Do This? (and I’m only just barely exaggerating)). But this one, somehow, is appropriate.
And let it be known that Miette’s Bedtime Story Podcast has a strict policy against eulogising, lecturing, or otherwise making demands of its listeners, but if you know what’s good for you, you’ll exercise regularly, live and love harmoniously, stop smoking, eat plenty of fresh fruit, listen to Brahms in the morning and Mahler before bed, and otherwise keep your ears clean and your mind sharp. Or, if you need a shortcut, read Sheckley.
New York Times Obit:
Robert Sheckley, Writer of Satirical Science Fiction, Is Dead
This morning, as with all mornings, I took She Who Must Bark At The Most Inconvenient Times on an early morning walk, which, given the several feet of snow on the ground (read: a few inches), was less an “early morning walk” than a “mighty difficult time staying afoot for the bipedal member of the walking party, as the bipedal-squared one trounced happily and darted into snowbanks and tried her best to cause the amputation of the fingers on my icicly leash-bearing hand.” And as I was trying both to preserve all my fingers and my stance (literally), it hit me that really, I ought to buy a sleigh and let the beast walk me for a change. And then, immediately following this thought, it hit me with horror: snow. Sleighride fantasies. Fresh fingersnaps. It’s holiday time.
And then I shuddered with enough ferocity to send beads of ice crystalled cold sweat from my brow and thought: I know what I need to get me in the holiday spirit– a glass of warm milk, a stocking by the fireplace, and just a little Teutonic Gothic Horror.
I know, I know. It’s morning. Nowhere near your bedtime. You listen now and get all confused, expecting a glass of warm milk and sugarplum dreams, only to discover it’s ten in the morning and you’ve got to drag yourself to work. It’s just, well, Out Of The Ordinary that I’d be sending a story now. But Boris Vian. He’s an Out Of The Ordinary sort of guy, and I owe him out-of-the-ordinariness. And if that’s a weak argument, I’ll just say that it’s about time we let our listeners on the flip side of the world have a proper bedtime listen. Don’t you think?
Also, I should add: thanks to the wonders of technology (and the marvels of good taste), my friends at IncipitBlog offer a reading from Vian’s L’Arrache Coeur in its original French (in English: Heartsnatcher). Francophiles, francophones, and francophonicians take note.
I’ve had a long meeting with myself just now, myself, who has been thinking for months that I ought to read Mann for you. After all, Mann is nothing if not the one empty corner in the squathouse of growing up, and although my romance with Mann ended years ago, I can still smell him at the thought… you know how it is. And so, month after month, I look at his stories, and I Just. Don’t. Know. But then I discovered that, ten years ago, give or take a day (give, actually, but who cares?) I wrote in a journal that I had read this story, not podcast-reading (because there was no such thing ten years ago) but physical lying-on-the-sofa-reading, probably the sofa, anyhow. Maybe in bed. Probably not at a table, because who reads at tables. And ten years ago, it affected me deeply– or else I lied to myself in the journal. Who knows?
And so I made this discovery just a few minutes ago, that I’d read the story exactly ten years ago, and I thought “well, isn’t that sort of neat! I’ll read it again, and see if the bildungsroman chapter of my life has at least turned a page or two in the past decade!”
The answer is to be written down in a journal somewhere to be discovered in ten years’ time. But the story, dear listener, is all yours.
S.S. Dignity of New York
Thought Id try an experiment and read something that was obviously designed to be read on the page and not delivered aloud bedtimestorily. But after that bit in Bookforum I’m just so v. curious how all these things sound you see, goodness how sad, and you’ll just have to indulge me.
Not sure if it will work, this one, whether it will come across or not at all but if it doesn’t well then that’s what the next podcast is for Yes? No? Never bought shawl in life. Maybe just have listen and we’ll see what we think. You, not me. xxx
For years, the only time I’ve ever been the slightest bit jealous of my carnivorous confreres has been in those moments after a Thanksgiving feast, watching them settle into the tryptofanatical haze of blissful near-slumber. The rest of the year I laud my healthful eating habits, but in those moments while sitting sprightly and alert at attention after the traditional Overindulgence In Side Dishes that defines the plight of non-flesheaters at such feasts, I wonder why the hell the pharmaceuticals aren’t offering up in capsule form what seems a perfectly legal and government-endorsed out-of-body experience. In short, it’s the only time I feel like I’m Missing Out.
Leave it to National Geographic to dispel the soporific effects of these turkey dinners you so crave. All these years, and you meateaters have been faking it!? Does this only happen in the presence of nonmeateaters?
In other words, I’m onto you. So next year, rather than holding up the charade, why not dose off naturally, organically, bedtimestorily?
If Miette’s Bedtime Story Podcast was a CD**, today’s would be the secret bonus track hidden at the very end. If this was called Miette’s Bedtime Story TV Miniseries, today’s would be the Exciting Second Half that you’d be Staying Tuned for, except without the special effects. If it was Miette’s Bedtime Story Green Salad, this would be the succulent bite of endive to Friday’s sweet pear.
Or, listen, if this was The Two Faces of Miette’s Bedtime Story Podcast, this would be the moment just before Joanne Woodward puts on that smokey dark voice and her eyes glaze over and she’s suddenly Eve Black talking about sailors and boozing.
In other words, not only am I not podcasting a story this time, but I’m giving you more Fitzgerald. What can I say? He’s the writer so nice he has to be read twice, that’s him.
But today’s, serious. Rather than give much further elucidation of this plaintive essay written for Esquire in somber post-flapper days, this person has the facts and history. I’m just the reader.
** I mean old CDs, the kind we bought for, like, fifteen, twenty dollars, with music ALREADY burnt onto it, and a booklet with the lyrics sometimes printed on it or nice glossy photos, and it only held AT MOST fifteen songs or so, ‘member?