Outside Reading — Don’t Drive Like My Brother edition

car talk

Car Talk’s Long Goodbye by Erik Shilling

Drawing generously from recent conversations with Ray Magliozzi, the surviving member of the sibling duo that hosted NPR’s Car Talk for many years, writer Erik Shilling does a masterful job of evoking the charms of the bygone radio call-in show (which still airs in cobbled-together “best of” episodes) and marveling at the endurance of a true oddity in the public radio sphere. Magliozzo remains an entertaining figure, recounting his unlikely fame with appropriate level or amusement and marvel. Although it’s most subtext, the piece also hits a soft sentimental spot for me in its peaceful resignation that such a broadcast sensation is unlikely to ever emerge again. Shilling’s article is published by Jalopnik.


The Gospel According to Marianne Williamson by Taffy Brodesser-Akner


Part of Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s regular technique in writing profiles is to insert herself into the process, openly grappling with whatever mixed emotions she’s feeling — or that she senses her subject is feeling. That approach is the sturdy axis upon which her famed feature on Bradley Cooper spins. And it offers the perfect shake of bitters into this cocktail about the vanity presidential campaign of self-help author Marianne Williamson, most notably in a brilliant little interlude about why it’s Brodesser-Akner whose been dispatched by The New York Times rather than one of their proper political reporters. The authorial intrusion is a questionable tic, but Brodesser-Akner makes it work better than just about anyone. If she was content for the passage to be amusing, it would still be a satisfying diversion. Instead, Brodesser-Akner makes certain the moment is also deeply telling, providing valuable insights on Williamson and her place is this monumentally bizarre political era. And deep within the article there is another moment of Brodesser-Akner stepping forward into the spotlight that has a broader impact. A novice to political journalism, she finds herself swept up in the mere practice of democracy — the citizenry attending speeches to understand how the person at the podium intends to make their lives better and determining how they will exercise the duty of their lone vote — and therefore admiring the system in a way that eludes her more jaded, just-another-day-on-the-job colleagues, always in hunt of a headline instead of understanding. To the degree that media coverage of elections is part of a our current problem (and I’d say it’s a major part of our current problem), getting more writers like Brodesser-Akner out on the trail just might be a good solution

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