Best Alice Munro Interview Re-Podcasted

Rose for Alice Munro

I'm beyond delighted that Eleanor Wachtel is re-podcasting her classic 2004 interview with Alice Munro to celebrate Munro's 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature. If I were you I'd download it immediately, before it expires (see download link below).

Munro and Wachtel talk in Munro's local lunch spot and it's one of my favorite author audio interviews ever. Their conversation fizzes with humor and intelligence, and covers almost everything a Munro fan would want to know, as I wrote in an earlier post:

"The interview lasts about an hour. It encompasses the arc of Munro's life and career, her opinions on adultery and hardship in fiction, her childhood in rural Ontario and how a scholarship launched her into the wider world, her frustration with the heroines of Tolstoy, her intimation of the sex in Austen, the unconscious theme of the stories in Runaway, the differing nature of her relationships with her mother and father, and her exploratory composition method." 

You can listen to it online here at CBC's Writers & Company webpage, or:

You can download the conversation with Wachtel and Munro for longterm keeping from the Writer's & Company iTunes podcast listing.

N.B. This particular Writers and Company podcast will probably go offline sometime in the next six months. Download NOW if you want to listen again later!


Best Podcast Apps for Radio-Style and Library-Style Listening

After months of using Shifty Jelly's Pocket Casts app for the iPhone (see earlier post) I find it's best for managing podcasts "radio-style" that you want to follow regularly. I couldn't find a way to download a particular episode for a podcast without simultaneously subscribing to that podcast's feed. Nor is Pocket Casts great for searching a podcast's archives. In spite of my intention to only use one podcast app, I found wasn't able to abandon the iPhone's native Podcasts app because it's superior for one-off downloads/listens and for saving podcasts I want to keep "forever."

So this is how I now use the two podcast apps:

Litagogo's Best Uses of Shifty Jelly's Pocket Casts App

I use the Pocket Casts app as a podcast radio. I set up its subscriptions so that whenever I open up the app, I can quickly find a podcast episode that suits my activity, whether it's cooking or gardening or walking. To whit:

For subscribing to my frequent-listening podcasts such as Eleanor Wachtel's Writers & Company from CBC RadioThe New Yorker Fiction Podcast, the BBC's Books and Authors podcastPRI's Selected Shorts, and Brad Listi's Other People podcast.

For subscribing to newsy/culture podcasts I like to dip into, such as WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show podcast and BBC Radio's Front Row Weekly podcast.

For streaming the above when I have free WiFi.

For manually downloading episodes from any of the podcasts above when I know I have a long drive ahead.

What I love most about the Pocket Casts app:
The individual podcast subscription summary pages, with a header at the top that tells you how many Recent, Unplayed, Downloaded, and Unfinished episodes you have for that podcast, and underneath the header, a reverse-chronological list of recent episodes.

What I love second-most about the Pocket Casts app:
The "Show Notes" that pop-up from the main podcast menu and that also are found by swiping left from within an episode. Also in general, the listening controls, particularly the rewind 10 seconds overlay.

What I like least about the Pocket Casts app:
Internal search for particular episodes is apparently non-existent. Or at least invisible to moi. For that you need good old Google, and then once you have a date you have to skim back, which is fast, but apparently only possible on podcasts to which you've subscribed--not good for one-off listens, so for that I still use the iPhone's free Podcasts app (more below).

Litagogo's Best Uses of Apple's iPhone Podcasts App

As suggested by its use of a "Library" label to display personalized content, I use the native iPhone Podcasts app more as a podcast library more than a podcast radio. To what:

For using the Store search function to sample or trial-run podcasts I may or may not want to subscribe to regularly on the Pocket Casts app. Sampling podcasts on the iPhone's Podcast app avoids overloading my Pocket Cast app's [New] Episodes feed, which quickly dragontails itself now that I have five or six subscriptions. I don't want samples clogging up my radio feed of reliables above.

For listening to a single episode of a podcast for research or passing-fancy interest, whether I've identified it from someone's recommendation or from a keyword search. The internal search on the iPhone Podcasts app is decent, and I assume just a portal into iTunes. For detailed searches or more macro searches you must resort to the Google, and then armed with podcast/episode info dip back into the Podcasts app.

For storing podcasts I want to keep and also sync across platforms. There are certain author interviews or craft talky-talk podcasts or short story readings that I can listen to several times--these I keep in two places: on a playlist on my iPod called "Perpetuities" and by downloading them into the iPhone podcast app. I highly recommend downloading your most beloved podcast episodes because sometimes they become unavailable. If you tire of them you can delete them later.

What I love most about the native iPhone Podcast app:
Sampling and archive functionality.

What I like least about the native iPhone Podcast app:
Lack of detailed episode descriptions up front on lists and also within the episodes.


TidBITS Article Gives Me Hope (for iPhone Podcast Phunctionality)

A Podcast App Worth $1.99
I used to listen to podcasts exclusively on my old Nano iPod, but since I acquired an iPhone (rationalized by an emergency overseas trip last spring) my trusty little iPod has been niched down to running soundtracks only.

One advantage of an iPhone for listening to podcasts is that if you're standing in one place, i.e. kneading dough, you can use the iPhone's speakers and shed the earbuds--my old iPod couldn't do that. An iPad or a laptop could be used the same way, but they take up a lot more counter space and it's harder to find a spot for them that is safe from flour clouds or water spill. I also liked that I only had to remember one device to have podcasts available to me at all times.

The only headache with using my iPhone for all my podcast listening was playlist management. I would sync my hand-picked podcast playlists (which iTunes lumps with "Music" playlists) from my laptop to the iPhone's orange Music app, or I would download podcasts from within the iPhone using the purple iTunes app (I still get confused between "Music" and "iTunes," which is why I've used chromatic identifiers here), but both methods were tedious, and gummed up storage space.

I thought the iPhone would achieve its podcast listening potential when Apple released their Apple Podcasts app in June of 2012, but then I used it: terrible search, draconically truncated titling, and non-intuitive subscription management. Half the time I can't find things I know I've downloaded. I have trouble finding things I want to delete. Most frustrating of all, I can't make playlists of podcast episodes according to my handpicked categories--i.e. "Favorite Short Stories," "Craft Lectures," "Perpetuities," or "Vermont Road Trip," something I had managed fairly simply by using iTunes on my laptop and then syncing the playlists to the iPod (N.B.: iTunes will store your playlist as "Music" whether it contains podcasts or songs, or a combo).

Now, thanks to a TidBITS article titled "Five Alternatives to Apple's Podcast App" that my favorite clipper forwarded to me, I have hope for far less frustrating iPhone podcast listening in the future. TidBITS contributor Josh Centers, who seems to share my dissatisfaction with the native Apple Podcast app, and who has a has a far more techy understanding of data management than I do, has gone to the trouble of testing five third-party podcast management apps for the iPhone. After reading his article, I'm planning to try out Shifty Jelly's Pocket Casts app (Android version also available), stat.