These two months’ worth of Audible Originals. I tend to make my selections based on length (preferring shorter to longer) and go for things that are more memoirs, mystery, or podcasty. This mostly hits that, but I can’t seem to stay away from some of the plays written for Audible, which generally aren’t great.
A Woman of the World –
This is one of those plays written for Audible, but I think it’s better than many of the previous ones I’ve come across. This play is written by a professional playwright, which helps of course, and is more of a one-woman show than a full play, which also lends itself better to solid listening. We find our protagonist addressing a local crowd in the early 1900s. She’s a woman about town, a kind of grand dame of the town in New England, and what we come to find out is that she’s one of the first publishing editors of Emily Dickinson’s poetry. Of course later editions would come out and supplant her initial edition. What we slowly come to realize from the slowly winding narrative built upon the reticence of the narrator that she and Emily Dickinson were actually lovers, the many of the poems were written either for her or with her as part of Dickinson’s life. And so the cruelty and sadness of the later editions becoming the definitive ones, becomes even more painful. It’s overall a solid listen and heartfelt and poignant.
This one is not great. It’s not that bad either, but it’s not very good. It becomes pretty obvious as we make it into the story and the performances are more or less fine, but the writing is fairly weak. So we begin with a conversation on some sort of vessel between an intergalactic messenger and some sort of auditor figure. We slowly find out that it’s the auditor’s first day, that she’s relatively untrained and the messenger really needs a good review of this mission for things to go well. We find out we’re in a kind of space colony cluster with multiple worlds, different races with some in charge and some not, and an encroaching plague. And it goes from there.
The Power of Self-Compassion
This is a mini-Great Course, and if I had realized that going in I never would have chosen it. In part because it means each chapter is half instruction and half reflective practice of guided meditation. I ALSO would not have chosen it if I realized it was a guided meditation course. I really don’t like to meditate for a lot of reasons and really don’t want to take guided practice. It’s course in understanding different small ways to give yourself a break. Ultimately this is good and when I was processing that information by way of discussion and description I enjoyed it, but I skipped the guided parts.
This is the best of the bunch by far. It’s a follow up by Beth Macy to her book Dopesick. I haven’t read that book but now I know I will because of how good, sad, interesting, and poignant this was. Essentially this is a podcast written and hosted by Beth Macy. Macy is a longtime reporter in Roanoke, VA, a smallish city (city and county — 200,000) in Southwestern Virginia. It’s near Virginia Tech and a few other places, and is a small metropole in and of itself. I know all this and am quite familiar with the area because it’s where I grew up and where my family is from and where I went back to until after grad school. So this follow up investigates the murder of Tess, one of the profiles of her book. The premise of the book is looking into how drug companies that invented Oxycontin were directly responsible in not only helping to addict thousands of people to their product, but as they dealt with that and through interdictive policies help lead to the opioid crisis in which many thousands of people have been dying through overdose to various opiates, especially Oxycontin and heroin. The podcast follows Tess, a young single mother who spent several years getting clean, relapsing, and so forth, having a child, seeking further treatment, and ultimately landing on an attempt to get clean through medicine assisted treatment, which is an effective treatment plan that requires a patient to be treated for the withdrawal symptoms but which is also banned by many sober-only programs. One of the underlying issues this podcast addresses is how the rare exceptions to relapse/death cycles are used as the only possible ways out — meaning the rare people able to go completely cold turkey becomes models of success (not of exception). So the podcast discusses all the history of Tess and her history of addiction. All of this is recorded through interviews and so much of this podcast is told by Tess and her mother, her father, her siblings.
All of this is told sadly retrospectively after Tess’s death. Tess died of murder in Las Vegas in December of 2017. She had voluntarily left a treatment center (without any one telling her family) and so alone, looking to relapse, in a city she was unfamiliar with, she basically disappears for weeks and week, until she is found beaten to death in a trashcan at an apartment complex. The rest of the podcast deals with the many failures of the individuals but especially the systems and institutions that contributed to this death.
It’s an incredibly sad and affecting listen, and since I’ve already made it through this I think I will be checking out Dopesick before long. I picked this one in spite of its length (it’s five hours long) but because it took place in my hometown and there was a lot of familiarity her for me.