A frustrated listener named Daniel has a suggestion:
I think it would be interesting to interview some editors from online literary journals like Jersey Devil Press, Defenestration, Paper Darts, or whomever.
I’ve been sending out work for the last six months with nothing but form rejections. I’m curious to hear what it’s like from their perspective, who these people are, what their experiences as writers have been, how they got started with the journal, and what they really want from authors….
Not a bad idea. If you’re jonesing, you can listen to my conversation with Paris Review editor Lorin Stein.
Another listener named Daniel, this one from Australia, has this to say:
I really enjoy the podcast, it’s a real highlight while I walk to my hideous day job and also when I escape to the botanical gardens at lunchtime….I’d really love to hear how your current novel is coming along, you were speaking about it in monologues, then you had the trip to Israel and mentioned you weren’t happy with what you had so far. And then silence while you tried to get some distance from it.
Answer: I’m working, slowly, on a rewrite. I completed a full draft (current title: The Piñatas) back in December. Can’t predict when I’ll finish. I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment. But it’s in some kind of motion.
And now on to ‘Listi Watch,’ the regular, unusually intensive reviews of the podcast sent in by ‘Max Millwood’ (a pseudonym, he tells me).
Max’s thoughts on Episode 158 — Tom Hansen:
There was something likable about this show. While the monologue was simply boring, the interview had a subdued tone that was mutually developed by Hansen’s temperament and the interview the two of you made. It was pleasant. Much in the same way your boredom made for a boring monologue, your ex-junkie guest made for a kind of junkyesque interview. When was the last time Terry Gross conducted a ‘junkyesque interview’?
Max’s generally positive tone continued with Episode 159 — Amber Dermont:
…a solid interview from start to finish. The amount of subjects you two hit on was very keen; it was a well balanced conversation; and it had a tone to it that never got too precious. The arching of the show was a little wonky. Asking her about her childhood about 70% into the show, jarringly going back to her parents being rare book dealers forty minutes after it was mentioned, and other minute examples made this show a bit knotty.
He was lukewarm on the episode’s more production-heavy, ‘David-Lynchian’ monologue:
You went above and beyond your typical comedic reach…by inserting David Lynch’s audio clip above the overdone background music. While this was ‘funny’ in the hard sense of the word, it wasn’t you…It would’ve been funnier if the character we’ve come to know as Brad Listi over the years, that three dimensional personality, just said ‘rubber clown suit’ in his sang-froid tone, instead of ironic insertions of Lynch’s voice. And even if we were to critique this new production-heavy type of comedy, we’d say that the background piano song went on for too long.
He then weighed in on Episode 160 — Giancarlo DiTrapano, panning both me and my guest:
After a perfectly timed segment of introductory banter, you went into the interview. Giancarlo quickly revealed himself to be a surprisingly inarticulate and scarcely investigative person who wasn’t interested in exchanging and developing ideas. This was a call to adjust for you, a host who ordinarily opposes all of those traits. Rather than be a—wait for it—counterpoint, you descended down to his level. The moments you bonded best were the ‘shooting [the] shit’ moments between two literati, which, we can’t stress enough, are always great to listen to. Yet just when the interview could’ve bloomed into a very intimate conversation, replete with gossip and shit-sharpshooting, you backtracked.
Worth noting that Giancarlo’s episode is among the most popular of the past six months in terms of listenership.
Millwood then goes on to say
Listi Watch is heterosexually wondering if you have a big penis.
Answer: No. My equipment is normal. Maybe a bit above average.
And he weighs in on my (repeated) pleas for listeners to review the podcast at iTunes:
Since your tone of voice is getting a bit more demanding, I think you should bribe us with the whole iTunes review. Figure something out. Maybe promise to write something about a random iTunes review, give a free month long subscription, something. People are lazy.
Not a bad idea. I’ll have to think on this. In the meantime: If you listen regularly and enjoy the program, please take 2 minutes out of your day and review it. It’s an easy way to help the cause.
The criticism then escalates sharply in Millwood’s review of Episode 161 — Periel Aschenbrand:
Eesh, this episode wasn’t good. I hate to do this to you, Brad, especially since we haven’t witnessed a Vintage Listi episode for about two weeks, but what can I say? Neither your monologue nor your guest seemed to warrant appearances on your show. Your nightmare story [in the monologue], while vivid, was not terribly interesting in that it wasn’t stupendously surreal or interestingly interpreted. And none of us cared about your guest—in fact, she and the interview in general were both repellent.
He continues, harshly:
There’s nothing interesting about a Fran Drescher/Joan Jett fusion who treads through life with self-absorption and indulgence….You unfortunately continue to make the decision to resist bringing up the work of your guests for as long as you can, thereby giving the interview no point of entry for your audience. But this interview stood out as exceptionally weak. None of the interview dealt with her life as an author, or the memoir for that matter….Bottom line: this interview was an example of an ordinary, and extremely vain guest with no tangible accolades, merits, or, hell, even an idea, who was let loose on an unchallenging host.
To me, obviously, Periel is plenty worthy of being on the program. And I felt she was wonderfully candid and charming in conversation. I loved talking with her.
And still more from Millwood on Episode 161:
[Aschenbrand] had you flubbing ‘gals’ all over the place (intrusive gender sensitivity is now a staple of every episode), she had you awkwardly talking about pregnancy as if you yourself had been pregnant (‘I’m two and a half years post-delivery.’ —Brad Listi), and she had you basically shying away from asking anything any other author or creative type could work with.
Point taken on the gender sensitivity issue. I need to stop talking about it. It’s getting absurd.
And finally, we get to Episode 162 — Amity Gaige. To which Millwood says
It was a good bounce-back show, seeing as how the prior two shows had been tampered by terrible guests and lazy hosting. While your monologues are still striving to get out of the pit they’ve been stuck in recently, Amity Gaige was an extraordinary guest who brought back the heartiness that this show handles so well. Even your flawed interviewing didn’t get in the way of a guest who was affable, articulate, intuitive, and perfectly qualified.
Regarding the monologue:
In an interesting turn that The Enlisted are not used to, there was the journalistic mention of a literary headline. We at Listi Watch feel that you can do this more often: current events, even profession-specific, are great source material for monologues.
You redeemed yourself when you brought up two phenomenal topics: gendered reading and literary exceptionalism. Well done bringing up these topics with deft seamlessness and proper investigation. Though this section was once again plagued with pandering gender-sensitivity (literally now a mark of every single show), the quality of conversation mitigated the annoyance of this habit. But, seriously, how many more female authors are going to find out on your show that you’re trying to understand women through books because of your daughter? We get that you’re a tolerant person. Now let’s see those testes. This is radio, baby.
Again: duly noted on the gender stuff. Starting to hate myself now.
Moving on. A listener named Kenneth is downright positive:
I think you have one of the top 3 podcasts going right now and I wanted to say thank you and keep up the great work….If I may comment on your monologue…You talk like you write. Your style of speaking directly to your listeners, without a guest, is very similar to reading A.D.D. (which I loved, by the way). That’s a compliment–I think there is much to the plain language/plain English movement….Not that your writing is simple. It’s intricate and layered–just in a straightforward, accessible way.
And finally, a listener named Will chimes in re: the podcast, Max Millwood, and Listener Feedback — Vol 3:
Just wanted to let you know that I’m a big fan. I listen on my bike ride in to work, and on the way home. Really dig the show, and I admire your dedication. Can’t be easy to turn out quality stuff week in and week out while simultaneously being husband, dad, writer, etc. Keep it up.
One note regarding Max: don’t take advice to ‘grow a pair’ from a guy who uses a pseudonym seriously.
**Note: If you want to send your thoughts, you can email me here .