Utne Blogs > Literature

Can Vinyl Save the Short Story?

by Will Wlizlo


Tags: Great Writing, Vinyl, Underwood: Stories in Sound, Nathan Dunne, Short Stories, Publishing, USB Typewriter, Jack Zylkin, Obsolescence, The Daily Telegraph, Publishing Perspectives,

Underwood Vinyl

Maybe the future of the short story has nothing to do with e-readers or online distribution. Could vinyl be literature’s next frontier?

That’s the premise behind Underwood: Stories in Sound, an English “journal” launched by Nathan Dunne that publishes contemporary short stories recorded on 33-rpm vinyl LPs. Dunne was looking for an antidote to the streamlined, glossy sound of podcasts and stories on mp3 and cherishes the “sense of occasion” offered by vinyl recordings.  Ensuring that people would sit down, kick back and listen to the stories, Publishing Perspectives found that Dunne deliberately omitted the short stories from the liner notes—the idea is to engage with the recording, not to read along.

Vinyl may even be a more stirring format than a book reading in terms of the author’s emotional delivery of the story.  Toby Litt, commenting on the recording process of his side A-story “The Hare” in an article from The Daily Telegraph, expressed he felt an authentic appreciation of recording to vinyl: “It’s a very emotional piece for me, because it’s partly about the miscarriages my partner had before our first child was born.  I felt I was able to read it better, to put more of myself into it, when there was no audience watching.”

Limited to a pressing of 1,000 and featuring illustrations by Los Angeles-based artist Jordan Crane, this piece of analog art will be nearly impossible to digitally recreate.  Expect Underwood to release biannually, with the next recording slated for November.  In the meantime, be patient and listen to the first recording—maybe even a couple of times.

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Other news in the realm of literary nostalgia: now you can buy an accessory to add the click-clack clatter of typewriter keys to any device with a USB port.  Jack Zylkin, head developer of the USB Typewriter, calls it a “groundbreaking innovation in the field of obsolescence.”

Sources: The Daily TelegraphPublishing Perspectives 

rick raab-faber
6/18/2010 10:41:17 PM

Seriously?! This is awesome. Just think of all the people you know who have a phonograph just sitting around collecting dust. Finally a use for it. If only there was another way for people to enjoy these stories that would require them to sit still and take it all in. You could -- I don't know -- maybe print the stories on pieces of paper? Bind them together. Call it a book. Call me old fashioned, but I'll stick with my Kindle, thank you very much!


michael holloway_2
6/18/2010 8:54:29 AM

Oddly, considering the content of the story, the first thing I'm thinking is, 'where can I listen to the record on the internet?' I love the idea of the soft user experience, and perhaps this effort will lead to a web site that has that “sense of occasion” that the record player provides - as opposed to the point and 'clickiness' of today s web sites. Perhaps that can be achieved through those Flash markups that have a soft feel, but are too 'rich' in content for most people's slowish computers right now. The same effect is achieved in game play software where once your in, the experience is so rich you forget about the infinite possibilities that are a mere click away - 'outside', on the net.