Late-Stage Capitalism Eldirch Horror

Like many of you, I’m sure, one of my first thoughts during our initial quarantine that started in March was that wow, I can finally get through a ton of my TBR books! The second was that I’d have plenty of time to keep up on my homework.

And, uh....I’m still about 10 books behind on my Goodreads challenge. But I got my homework done! (Eventually)

I’m sure I’m not the only one who tried to see the good in having so much free time, only to find themselves unable to focus, or else focusing on Animal Crossing: New Horizons (how many hours have you logged? Last I checked mine was almost 400!) Not even audiobooks appealed; I was more stressed than I realized.

However, the ADD-brain demands stimulation, and so, when I wasn’t on YouTube, I turned to podcasts.

The first was Desperate Acts of Capitalism, hosted by CT Kelly and Evan Swope. In their words, it’s a comedy podcast about “money, marketing, and how it all goes wrong.” This description doesn’t quite do it justice, though, because it’s amazing how unbelievably wrong things can go when someone with too much money thinks they know how to start and/or run a business. CT and Evan are both around my age as well, so I vividly remember many of the failed ventures they mention. Funny as they are, they also scratch the Late-Stage-Capitalism-Gothic itch I get whenever I drive past what used to be the Blockbuster just down the street from my parent’s house, or catch a glimpse of the old Borders rewards card I still keep with my car keys. Because while it’s very fun watching rich people crash and burn, there’s a sadness in remembering those franchises that we watched die over the course of our lives as the market changed and they either weren’t able or refused to adapt, and it’s fascinating to see what about the market, and what about the business model, killed them. New episodes are out every Sunday around 5pm.

El Dorado Freddy's

The second is The Magnus Archives (TMA) and my God I haven’t been so engulfed in an episodic narrative in...well, I can’t remember when! TMA follows Jonathan Sims, Head Archivist of the 

Magnus Institute, as he suddenly finds himself in charge of an archive that’s as mysterious as it is poorly organized. Initially, it feels something like a monster-of-the-week kind of story, with Jon reading one spooky statement per episode into an old tape recorder, but as it goes on, the overarching mystery hidden within the statements unspools, trusting us to follow along. 

I’ve been elevator-pitching it as Welcome to Night Vale (WTNV) but  played straight. As in, TMA is a cosmic-horror-tragedy with a recorded-audio framing device, while WTNV is magical realism with a recorded-audio framing device; both these podcasts are quite queer.

The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in your Home

At 176 episodes and counting, each one around 30 minutes each, there’s plenty of content to devour before the show ends next March. Especially since, thanks to These Uncertain Times, the team will be taking breaks throughout this final season due to the additional strain of trying to create during a pandemic.

Unfortunately, podcasts don't count towards Summer Reading minutes, though WTNV does have a number of novels to read if you'd like the best of both worlds. But they're excellent if you find you're too stressed to stomach a full literary meal, but still need some good, tasty content.

A final note: if you’re like me or a couple of the friends I’ve roped into the TMA madness with me and have a good amount of knowledge of how libraries and archives work: Yes, Jon is displaying pretty poor archival practice. It's frankly fascinating how bad these archivists are at actually archiving. Keep that in mind. And if you listen to this come and find me, please, I need to talk about it.

-Marilyn Kearney is a Youth Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.

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