Studio: Slate Magazine/Panoply
What It Is
Various staff members from Slate’s culture division read and discuss a book a month.
A new episode of this show comes out every month. Details of the next book are always given in advance to give the listener time to read along and be ready for an in-depth discussion. Shows usually run an hour or a little under. Basically the show’s entire archive can be found on the iTunes page. This podcast is included in the feed for Slate Magazine’s Daily Podcast, so a subscription to that one will get you all of the new episodes of this one as well.
What About It
I’m a big, big Slate guy. Like any news/politics/culture/whatever outlet, it has its share of tics, if not a bit more, but it’s the very nature of its idiosyncrasies that make me love it. It was Slate’s Political Gabfest that first introduced me to the world of podcasts, so I have quite a history. This show is smart and often pretty witty. The show, like Slate’s Culture Gabfest, can be pretentious at times, but there’s usually enough wit involved to puncture it. The selection includes both classics and new books. It’s a show that’s interesting enough in the way it sparks the listener to think about the books themselves in deeper ways, but, if I can be allowed to be so bold, the people on the show are often DEAD WRONG in their opinions. I’m not sure how you can get three people in a room talking about Brideshead Revisited and every single one of them thinks the religious element of the book is both unimportant and uninteresting. But whatever. The rotating cast of reviewers means that some episodes are quite a bit better than others. The book selection has something to do with that too, I reckon. It’s a solid enough show, but not up to Slate’s usual excellent standards. And, anyway, the feed to subscribe to is the Daily Podcast. Then you get these as well and you can decide if you want to give them a shot or ditch them.
2 ½ stars.
The religious element of Brideshead Revisited IS unimportant and uninteresting.
Avoid Like the Plague If
You’re way too invested in the Mack Bolan Executioner series to try to read anything else right now.
Best Entry Point
I’ll give you a couple, one for a classic and one for a newer book, though it’s actually kind of older by now. Anyway, I enjoyed the discussion of The Catcher in the Rye, one of my favorite books, of course. It’s smart and on point a lot of the time. Regulars Stephen Metcalf (of the Culture Gabfest) and Troy Patterson are both in fine form. And then there’s the episode on Fifty Shades of Grey, which was done in correlation with the movie version being released. Meghan O’Rourke, usually the quiet voice of reason on the episodes she’s on, says it’s the worst book she’s ever read. The always sarcastic Dan Kois is on hand and Hanna Rosin finds a surprising amount of grist for discussion in the book’s sexual politics and style. It’s almost certainly the funniest episode of the show.