When we bought our car in 2005 we had Sirius satellite radio installed. We bought the life-time membership which is a good thing, because I don’t think we ever would have kept paying the monthly fee after we had actually used the service.
We don’t spend enough time in the car (thankfully) to really make such a service worth it. Add on top of that the fact that the sound quality is really quite bad. Most of the talk stations sound like AM radio in a tin can. The music stations are better but not as good as broadcast FM stations. I know it is not the stereo system in the car or the speakers because regular FM radio and the iPod sound brilliant.
But then there is all the variety. John heads straight for the 70s or 80s whenever he has control of the dial. That can be fun, but I like to explore the less mainstream options like the CBC and the BBC. I find the CBC in particular to be quite fascinating. For some reason it seems so much more foreign to me than the BBC. Maybe because it is more Canada-focused whereas the BBC is more global in its approach.
Of course I do remember the halcyon days of living within reach of Minnesota Public Radio, which is, in my humble opinion, the best public radio network in the country without question. One station devoted entirely to classical music and one to news and information. Back in the 1990s, before satellite radio and the Internet, MPR would broadcast both the CBC every night and the BBC World Service. (I was in college at the time and didn’t have cable TV either.) To have these two exotic streams of information every night was a revelation and it made me feel so smart and cosmopolitan. And I think it really appealed to my nascent wanderlust inclinations. (I’m having a seriously groovy moment right now thinking of those days. Sigh.)
Oh yeah, the title says Book Radio. Maybe I should get to that part.
The other day I was in the car trying to avoid listening to the news and not caring for the insipid, pedestrian, overplayed, classical music chestnut that was on broadcast radio, I flipped over to the Book channel on satellite. Despite the tinny audio quality I was immediately enchanted by the book. Which is odd for me because I don’t really do audio books. But there it was: English accent, check. Cosy theme, check. But then it suddenly stopped. I guess it was time for them to change programs but the abrupt stop was, well, abrupt. To make matters worse, they didn’t even follow it up with “You’ve been listening to…” Oh yes, they eventually did, but all they said was “You’ve been listening to the Penguin Book Hour” or something like that. Yes?! And what else?! What is the BOOK being read, you idiot?! And then they played all these loud, promos for other Sirius stations.
Okay, Thomas, don’t panic. Google will save the day, just pop in some of the key words that you heard in the text…
“club lunch”–so many guests arriving at various times that lunch would be serve yourself
…his inkwell was dry which made (some woman’s name) wonder what else in the house wasn’t up to scratch…
Oh god, not even Google is going to help this time. The main problem is I didn’t know how to spell Ulrich, wasn’t even sure I heard it correctly. But I was wrong, Google is amazing. With that little information it actually did find the right book. (I had, surprisingly, already found out the book name on Sirius’ website where they actually had a detailed program schedule. But I still did the Google test and was still surprised that it found the right info.)
Turns out the book was Fall of Giants by Ken Follett. I have never read any of his books and have been turned off by the double whammy or their immense size and the fact that they tend to be popular. But after hearing this bit of the book, I may actually pick this one up.
|I used a foreign language
edition image because
all of the English ones
are ugly and are the type
of covers that make me
not want to red Follett.
I am a book snob,
no doubt about it.
So back to Book Radio. Like all things on Sirius it generally sucks. I think they have some original programming, but most of the schedule appears to be simply them playing existing audio books. No intelligent chatter, just canned announcements and promos between audio books that don’t really give much information. Plus the choice of books and flashy razzmatazz of the promos are meant to appeal to a reading public that is somewhat, shall we say, more mainstream than my own tastes.
Like cable TV, there is so much potential for cultural programming. But instead it gets dumbed down to be almost as banal as everything else. Too bad I can’t read and drive at the same time. Then again I have only listened to about 6 minutes of Book Radio, maybe I will give it another chance on the drive up to Maine this summer.
[Since writing this post we travelled down to Richmond, Virginia for a wedding and I listened to more Book Radio. My estimation of it improved slightly but only slightly. They played Gaskell’s North and South but then also seem to have a regular show on comic books. Not graphic novels mind you, but comic books.]