borrowing bones

The occasional weblog of writer Dora Dueck

My “Serial” Binge

Last weekend, I binged on the wildly popular podcast series, “Serial”, in which Sarah Koenig and other producers and staff of “This American Life” investigate the case of Adnan Syed, who was convicted of the murder of Hae Min Lee in Baltimore in 1999 and who continues to claim his innocence.

I say “wildly popular” as if I’d been in the loop about the series while it unfolded last year, like some five million others anxiously waiting for the next installment (there are 12), but that’s not true. I’m aware of its reach after the fact. But even this much later, I’ll admit I feel a strange satisfaction in having participated in this phenomenal thing, to be in the know about it. Aren’t we just funny that way? There’s so much that I’m completely clued out about, which is inevitable and quite fine actually, and a great deal else on the “cultural” front that I access only tangentially. I’ve watched only half an episode of “Mad Men,” for example, one episode of “Downton Abbey,” none of “Orange is the New Black” or “Transparent” and on and on, which is not to discredit the accomplishments of these programs, nor to discredit people who are faithful fans of these series, but just to say that it’s possible to be aware of things, even know quite a bit about them, without actually listening to or watching or reading them.

But I digress.

I came upon “Serial” via an article in Christian Century (“Trial by Podcast” by Kathryn Reklis) and since I trust the cultural mediation of intelligent Episcopalians and other mainliners more than many other sources, I took a listen. I’m generally more oriented to radio and reading than visual forms like television—even reading, to my mind, is essentially listening—and I was immediately beguiled by the narrator’s voice. I don’t mean just her physical voice, but her narrative voice, her intimate and confiding stance, her turns of phrase. I wish I’d written some of the latter down to show what I mean.

It was like reading a book and saying, “I love how she writes.” For as much as this was about an investigation into Syed and the main witness in the case, Jay Wilds, and which of them is lying (because one or both of them have to be), it was about the narrator’s own quest and relationship with the case. It was a kind of memoir-on-the-go, non-fiction that is, but employing the most compelling features of good fiction such as dialogue, setting, telling detail, suspense, and so on.

There’s no doubt that I got hooked in the story itself, that I’ve been mulling the characters, that I’m wondering along with critics about the ethics of the endeavor. But most of all I’m fascinated by this storytelling form. Is it a return in “audible” format to the serialized stories of a Charles Dickens, for example, back in the 19th century, as some have suggested? Is the question about Adnan’s innocence or guilt whizzing endlessly around the internet just another version of the fervor over the end of  The Old Curiosity Shop? Then, fans swarmed the harbor to call out to sailors arriving from the U.K. who might have read the conclusion, “Is Little Nell alive?”

My binge seems a bit silly now that I confess it here. But no, I must insist, it was fascinating too. Enough so that I wish to explore developments in podcasting, see what’s out there, and where. Says James Atlas in “Hearing is Believing“, “there is something about the act of listening that invigorates the mind.”


Beyond stereotype

Earlier this month, Maclean’s magazine created a challenge for my city when it called Winnipeg the most racist city in Canada. A feature article explained why. While there were those who disagreed with the assessment, or tried to bring nuance to the claims, many others simply set about doing something about it. If the article was “a gift in barbed wire,” as I’ve heard it described, they decided to open the gift, never mind the scratches it might involve. MACLEANS-cover

On Monday evening, Rosanna Deerchild, writer and CBC broadcaster, and face of the recent Maclean’s cover, along with Heather Plett, connection facilitator, invited people to the Forks–whoever wished to come–for an informal dinner and discussion about race relations and the path forward in our city. Some 80 people showed and I among them. Read the rest of this entry »

Binoculars on


photo_2Christmas was spent in Toronto. We had a wonderful time with Second Son and family; just the granddaughters’ expressive joy over their gifts alone was worth the airfare. The four-year-old’s top wish was an Elsa doll, of the Frozen movie franchise, which she duly received from her parents, as well as the Anna doll. We’d gone to see Frozen after it came out, on account of our grandchildren’s interest, and it had seemed to me that Anna, with her act of sisterly love, was the heroine of the story. I noticed that the girls of my acquaintance were more strongly attracted to Elsa, the princess who turns the kingdom into snow and ice, however. When I puzzled aloud about this, my daughter-in-law explained (and the four-year-old confirmed), “It’s because Elsa has the power.” Hmm; interesting.

While in Toronto, H. and I also went to see the Alex Colville exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario. I’m intrigued by Colville’s paintings for several reasons, not the least of which is the way they suggest stories, though not telling them as much as demanding I create them myself from what’s set in the frame. What happened? one wonders. What’s going to happen next? And why this moment? Read the rest of this entry »


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