by Beth Reynolds, Children’s Librarian and podcast listener extraordinaire
Once upon a time, quite a long time ago in the world of podcasts, I listened to a series hosted by Starlee Kine called Mystery Show. Driven by her desire to find answers to mysteries that couldn’t be answered by a Google search, Starlee set out determined to follow wherever the trail might lead her. Over the seven-part series, she tried to discover a certain celebrity’s actual height, the true origin of a belt buckle, and Britney Spears’s opinions about a hot topic.
So far, there has not been a Season Two. A quick internet search tells me that the show has been cancelled (!), and so, as one is often forced to do, I looked for something else to fill the void.
Recently, I got swept away looking for Richard Simmons after he disappeared abruptly from public life a few years ago. In Missing Richard Simmons, Richard’s friend Dan Tebersk tries to find him and to solve the riddle of his sudden isolation. I found it both riveting and sad; it gave me new insight into a group of people I hadn’t thought about for years.
This “disappearing” theme seems to be a new trend. I’ve started following a new podcast called Rabbits, in which a young woman decides to investigate her friend Yumiko’s sudden vanishing. She strongly suspects it has something to do with a secret online game, and the podcast itself is very twisty and puzzle-y.
And then this week, from the group that gave us Serial , the new podcast S-town was released. In an interesting twist, all seven episodes were released at the same time. Which means many of the people I know have been listening every spare moment possible, inventing reasons to be in the car or offering to walk the dog when it’s not even their turn.
What I love about each of these different shows is what they have in common. Each host/narrator/journalist takes you, the listener, behind the scenes in the name of figuring out a certain something that’s been puzzling them. And in doing those deep dives together we often learn about a certain region or culture. In the past few weeks I’ve been to Beverly Hills, spent time in underground gaming societies — and now I’m in S-town, a Faulkneresque world of trailer parks and tattoo parlors. Each is so different from the world I inhabit that listening to one is not so much an escape but a form of travel.
The best part of S-town? Listening to the end, I learned the names of all the people involved to produce the shows — including our dear Starlee Kine. So that’s what she’s been up to! Mystery solved.