Wednesday, March 07, 2018

LeVar Burton Reads... Bradbury

LeVar Burton - Emmy and Grammy Award-Winning actor-director, and star of Star Trek - has a weekly podcast where he reads selected short stories. Think of it as PBS' Reading Rainbow for adults! The most recent episode is a full reading of Ray Bradbury's "The Great Wide World Over There".

The production values are high in this series. Not just a straight reading of the story, the episode includes subtle sound effects and almost subliminal music cues. Burton performs each character distinctly - and the sound design separates the characters out from the narration, so that it almost sounds like a full cast dramatisation, but the cast is just LeVar alone.

Burton's evident interest in literacy (he hosted and produced Reading Rainbow for twenty-three seasons; there's commitment for you) make this story a natural choice. "The Great Wide World" concerns Cora, an adult living in backwoods Missouri who has never learned to read or write, and indeed has never left the valley she was born in. When she is helped by her nephew, she begins replying to the ads in the back of a pulp magazine - and in return receives her first ever items of mail: free samples of sunflower seeds, pamphlets from the Rosicrucians, and free diet plans. In the internet age this sounds like spam hell, but in simpler times (the story was first published in Maclean’s in August 1952), it's easy to imagine that such junk mail would be a wonder. There's no SF or fantasy in this story, by the way. It's one of Bradbury's realist tales, perhaps echoing Dandelion Wine more than any other of Bradbury's major works, but set in a different locale.

Below is a direct link to the episode - but you can also pick up the series on any decent podcast app by searching for "LeVar Burton". The website for the series can be found here.