Have You Listened to S-Town?

I listened to the most amazing podcast on the drive to and from West Virginia this past weekend. It’s called S-Town.

Apparently S-Town was hugely popular when it was released a few months ago, but I didn’t hear about it until last week. It’s 7 episodes, each about an hour long, and it’s produced by some of the people who made the Serial podcast.

I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll give a very brief synopsis and then share why I enjoyed it so much. NPR’s introduction is way better than whatever I would write:

“John despises his Alabama town and decides to do something about it. He asks a reporter to investigate the son of a wealthy family who’s allegedly been bragging that he got away with murder. But then someone else ends up dead, sparking a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and an unearthing of the mysteries of one man’s life.”

The entire production is extremely well done. The podcast is mostly about John, who turns out to be a riveting character. I was also hooked by several of the mysteries and twists throughout the 7-episode arc.

Perhaps most importantly, it made me think. It made me think about America, love, journalism, human nature, the south, time, storytelling, and deciding how to fix the things about the world that make you angry.

My favorite scene in the podcast is one where Brian, the narrator and reporter, goes to a tattoo parlor to chat with some locals. I can’t reveal the details of this scene (despite it not impacting the storyline, I can’t do it justice in a few words) it’s the perfect microcosm of how people who may appear bad are actually quite good…they just have some bad qualities. Within a span of a few minutes I went from completely dismissing someone to relating to and even liking them.

Have you listened to S-Town? What did you think? Feel free to talk about spoilers, but please tag your comments appropriately if you do.

8 thoughts on “Have You Listened to S-Town?”

  1. I haven’t, but now that I’m traveling for work I’ve a few podcast queued up and downloaded to go, and I’ve added this. One that is a limited series, ut is trying for a season 2, is Marscorp. A dysfunctional comedy in space. Here is their tag:

    MarsCorp is a 12-part scripted comedy podcast about Station Supervisor E.L. Hob’s first year at MarsCorp, a terraforming colony established on the red planet in 2070.

    I found it hilarious, I’m hoping for a season 2.

    Reply
  2. Just finished a marathon listening of S Town.

    ##SPOILERS##

    It’s really a beautiful exercise in empathy. For example, when the cousins entered the story, I was disgusted with them. In my mind, they were clearly greedy opportunists…until I listened to the interview with them. I think one quote from the Podcast sums up the whole story for me –

    “Do you think I’m a bad person?”
    “I think you’re a complicated normal person.”

    That’s pretty much everybody in that story – wounded, complicated – but once you hear their story you can’t possibly call them “bad people”. It’s wonderful.

    /SPOILERS

    Additional recommendation that feels similar to S-Town: A Life Discarded, 148 Diaries found in the trash: https://www.amazon.com/Life-Discarded-Diaries-Found-Trash/dp/B01M22JKX8 A biographer comes into possession of 148 Diaries written by the same person which were thrown away, and he pieces together their life.

    Reply
    • That’s a great observation. I thought the same thing after the interview with the cousins. Brian says something about it being like looking at the negatives of a photograph–they were telling the same story as Tyler, but from a different perspective.

      Thanks for the recommendation!

      Reply

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