Friday, October 16, 2015

Out on the Wire by Jessica Abel

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Go behind the scenes of seven of today’s most popular narrative radio shows and podcasts, including This American Life and RadioLab, in graphic narrative. Every week, millions of devoted fans tune in to or download This American Life, The Moth, Radiolab, Planet Money, Snap Judgment, Serial, Invisibilia and other narrative radio shows. Using personal stories to breathe life into complex ideas and issues, these beloved programs help us to understand ourselves and our world a little bit better. Each has a distinct style, but every one delivers stories that are brilliantly told and produced.

 Out on the Wire offers an unexpected window into this new kind of storytelling—one that literally illustrates the making of a purely auditory medium. With the help of This American Life 's Ira Glass, Jessica Abel, a cartoonist and devotee of narrative radio, uncovers just how radio producers construct narrative, spilling some juicy insider details.

My take: 3 looks

Podcasts and narrative radio are genres that are changing the way listeners get information. A wide variety of topics, appealing to a vast audience doesn't just happen, but is born of much work and preparation.

Jessica Abel's graphic book is a great format for a book on how visual radio is, and how much work goes into a story. Wow! I had no idea that there were so many components to work out before going on the air, from the story pitch to the timing of the pieces, to the music used to support the tone. The nuances like segues from story to story are something that I have forever taken for granted. Now I know how many people it takes to make these shows work.

But that is not all. Abel uses a wonderfully visual format to get all of the information to the reader. Laid out like how I imagine storyboards are prepared, I almost felt like a voyeur in a graphic world. A topic introduced in one chapter shows up again in another chapter, as that story goes through the entire process of conception to presentation. The personal reflections of those intimately involved in this genre add to the down-home feel of the book.

The only drawback I had in reading this is that I felt that it was a little long. In the effort to bring it from informational only to something understandable to the lay-reader, I got a little bogged down more than once. I don't fault Abel with this, however. She has taken a very intricate subject, laden with components and options that would otherwise make my head spin, and placed it within my grasp.

If you love listening to these shows and podcasts, this is a book that you must add to you shelf.

Many thanks to for this copy in exchange for my honest review.

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