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This American Life

How many times have I stopped the car to listen to the end of an “act,” as Ira Glass calls them. The stories are so revealing, often so complicatedly and deeply personal, so funny, so beyond the easy narratives we usually hear about ourselves. Most importantly - they’re often about what the world wrongly tends to call “unimportant” or “small” or too “personal.” Hooray for the space they’ve created on our national radio for the “small!” I’m often asked how I could tell such a personal story; ‘was it hard?’ or ‘was it scary?’ A big part of my answer is that so many of my art heroes reveal their personal selves, the parts of themselves that they don’t fully get and definitely aren’t in control of, and I’m really just following their lead. People like Leonard Cohen, Allen Ginsberg, and Fellini, and yeah, all the folks over there at This American Life make this kind of work. I even went to their website and purchased a comic book that Mr. Glass made about how to create TAL shows. It’s kind of a how-to graphic story (which I’ve since lost, and now can’t find online?!), explaining the formula of their shows for people submitting. To my memory there was one part about how the shows have a back-and-forth between anecdotal reporting of the subject’s life which is then periodically summed up and discussed in more thematic terms, in a much more top-down kind of voice. Ira Glass warns this is only good for radio because radio is a highly expositional medium. So, of course I decided not to listen to that part and occasionally have my lead character sort of step out of the story and analyze some of the things that are happening to him, how he got here, in a very top-down thematic way.

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