Monday, January 30, 2012

Ragging on Radio

"Fireside Chat"

I'm in Italy right about now.

Two classes of students are smack dab in the middle of a memoir unit, and I'm nose deep in love. Monday morning ushered in a Stephen King interview, and I thought my students would love it--the gruesome details of his accident, how the person driving the van seemed eerily similar to a character from one of his novels, and what the book itself means to him. The only reason I wasn't fully submerged in love was because I had to keep my eyes above the surface. If I didn't, I wouldn't have been able to see their reaction.

After providing a bit of background information, I pranced over to the speaker. Sadly, this prancing was met with sighs and slumps and "radio interview?"

"Just give it a chance I promised's really good."

I lost nearly all credibility.

A few indulged me, and I actually believe they liked it. Most, however, seemed totally bored by the slow, steady voice, the lack of visual images, the rhythm of oral story-telling. To be perfectly blunt, the notion of a radio seemed as uninteresting to them as a Game Boy would. In their life, any sort of audio streams through earphones, and that audio has already been carefully sifted and selected. There's no fast forwarding through songs they don't like or listening to commercials or having to wait to hear whole interviews. Their life consists of their favorite songs--commercial free--and sound bites updating them on juicy details. It seems crazy to imagine anyone would actually sit and listen to an interview when you could search for the important parts later.

None of this occurred to me until I watched them suffer through every single syllable. I thought sharing this interview could help them conduct their own. I thought the story telling might entice them. I thought that maybe I could convince them there was some value in patiently listening to a radio show. But unless it was the Monday morning blahs, I'm pretty sure I thought wrong. By the looks on their faces, I'm pretty sure most of them disliked every minute, and I'm pretty sure that brief exposure to NPR resulted in 46 fewer potential listeners.

When school ended, when boot camp came to a close, and when my evening errands all fell off the list, I reflected on my interview. I know it won't be a good idea for next year, but it was a good idea for me tonight.

As King's words dwindled to nothing, I decided to go back to Italy. I decided to think about my memoir, to drink my water of life. To plan the steps I need to take to carve out the time I need to edit and to submit my work.

With such plans, came images of a fire, a radio, and a tiny little notepad. And for one brief moment, I thought that perhaps I understood why FDR's sea of Americans gathered around and waited, and listened, and imagined. And in the next moment, with the streetlight blazing beside me, I pried open my computer and began to chat.

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