Dispatches | September 23, 2010

Rob forwarded an Utne reader article to me today, which proposed an idea to save the short story: vinyl. I started reading and found myself thinking, “Oh, how nostalgic – the book is to Kindle as the vinyl is to digital audio.” I imagined a dozen people huddled around a turntable in a small coffee shop on a cold night sipping chai and pumpkin spice lattes. Then, I thought about the turntable in my apartment.

Yes, I am a 22 year old college student and I have a turntable in my apartment. Let me explain. I have a roommate who enjoys old and useless items – useless in so much that they are outdated. So, for his birthday, I drove to a local vinyl shop and purchased a record player. He loved the gift and also happened to uncover a small office at the university that sold vinyls on Wednesdays for 50 cents each. His first trip to the record sale seemed harmless: a Gershwin vinyl, some random jazz I’d never heard of, and Ludwig van’s 9th (we had recently Netflixed A Clockwork Orange). That same Friday, he returned with a stack of 20 records. Evidently, the recorded sound office on campus had decided to upgrade its record sale to every day of the week. I think they did it just for him.

In the end, it seemed like we listened to everything on the turntable, good and bad. I enjoyed the classical music and Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited and The Beatles’ Abbey Road. Unfortunately, listening to the records didn’t induce the “sense of occasion” Nathan Dunne hopes to achieve with Underwood: Stories in Sound. Honestly, it wasn’t really different from plugging my iPod in to the Bose dock. And Toby Litt – author of “The Hare,” recorded and pressed by Underwood – doesn’t exclusively address vinyl recordings in his commentary on the ease of recording without an audience. I have never recorded anything for TMR in front of a live studio audience and that’s all digital.

I’m not sure I buy the idea of short stories on vinyl. Is it really going to be much different from the digital audio tracks you find on the TMR online issue or on your favorite podcast? Or is it just more of a pain?