A Decade of the New Yorker Fiction Podcast


It wasn’t ten but thirteen or fourteen years ago, at one of the New Yorker Fiction department’s weekly meetings, as we were discussing possible “iPad extras”—multimedia add-ons that would expand our offerings beyond the dimension of print—that Roger Angell, an editor and contributor to the magazine for decades, was bemoaning the fact that the magazine had published hundreds of stories that few people remembered or had access to. Perhaps there was a way to use that expansive archive of fiction dating back almost a century and make it feel current? From that conversation came the idea to ask contemporary New Yorker fiction writers to choose stories by other authors that had appeared in the magazine at any time since its début, in 1925, read those stories, and discuss them with me.

In early 2007, a trial first episode was taped: Richard Ford was the guest, and he read and talked about John Cheever’s story “Reunion.” (Ford had written his own “Reunion,” partly in tribute to Cheever’s.) A few months later, we decided to launch the podcast as a regular feature, though the memorable theme music (taken from “Schrapnell” by Isolée) wasn’t added until the second episode, and the first five episodes were released as part of the already existing “New Yorker Out Loud” podcast. For the sixth episode, the first officially launching the New Yorker Fiction Podcast, which was released in October of 2007, Paul Theroux read and discussed Jorge Luis Borges’s disturbing “The Gospel According to Mark,” published in the magazine in 1971, a story, according to Theroux, “about religion, about superstition, about belief, about faith, and about being a stranger.”

The past decade has seen the release of a hundred and twenty episodes of the podcast, all of which have offered me discoveries and rediscoveries, insights and inspiration, and, above all, an unrivalled opportunity to dive into the thinking both of the authors of the stories and of the writers who chose them for the podcast. For me, the combination of chooser and chosen, of reader and story, has often been, in itself, a revelation—what a thrill, for instance, to hear Salman Rushdie, who spent years of his life with bodyguards, make Donald Barthelme’s absurdist story “Concerning the Bodyguard” feel all too real, or to discover not only a story but the narrative of a sad and complicated life when researching Julie Hayden’s “Day-Old Baby Rats,” which was chosen and read by Lorrie Moore, or to hear the poignant sense of loss that infuses Allan Gurganus’s reading of “My Father Addresses Me on the Facts of Old Age,” by his former teacher and friend Grace Paley. There are too many highlights to mention here, so I’ve pulled up just a handful of the episodes that were, for me, among the most surprising.

Lorrie Moore reads “Day-Old Baby Rats,” by Julie Hayden, from March, 2010.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reads “Figures in the Distance,” by Jamaica Kincaid, from September, 2010.

Salman Rushdie reads “Concerning the Bodyguard,” by Donald Barthelme, from August, 2011.

Jennifer Egan reads “The Other Place,” by Mary Gaitskill, from March, 2014.

Allan Gurganus reads “My Father Addresses Me on the Facts of Old Age,” by Grace Paley, from October, 2015.

Rivka Galchen reads “The Cafeteria,” by Isaac Bashevis Singer, from January, 2016.

Mohsin Hamid reads “The Book of Sand,” by Jorge Luis Borges, from April, 2018.

Dave Eggers reads “Indianapolis (Highway 74),” by Sam Shepard, from December, 2018.

Joy Williams reads “The Itch,” by Don DeLillo, from March, 2019.

Margaret Atwood reads “Corrie,” by Alice Munro, from August, 2019.


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