Chicago Public Radio: This American Life with Ira Glass
Case Two: Tell it to the Void (I)
(04.20.2007; originally aired 04.20.2001)
We hear a series of letters that originally appeared on the brief-lived,
little-known, but well-loved webzine Open Letters. They're written by a woman
who signs her name as "X" and are addressed to the father of her adolescent son.
X has no idea where to send the letters...but she keeps writing. Since the letters'
original publication on the Internet, X has decided to reveal her identity.
Her name is Miriam Toews, and her book is called Swing Low, A Life.
Her letters were read for us by Alexa Junge.
To listen, click on "Full episode" on the left hand side, under the photo, of this page.
For this assignment, start at the 27:48 point of this audio file
and listen to the 32:43. (The entire story starts at the 23:50 point and ends at the 41:30 point.)
You may have to listen from the beginning of the whole show to be able to move the slider to the right spot.
This part includes questions on the first part of the story; Part II will be covered in next week's assignment.
If you are having problems playing the file, try this local (Ceiba) file of Part I.
to keep track of s.o. through s.o.
"like you'd tell me"
before there's no kid left
"Keep a stiff upper lip."
you don't get to choose
The Usual Suspects (movie)
to recover from
to lurch back
to clutch a bottle of coke
fake barfing sounds
"Anything for the kid!"
to fall on the grass
best...in the world
the other day
to be upset about
"Man, would you just all relax?"
"I was kidding."
Auntie Em (= Emma, Emily, Emmy)
fill your boots (Canadian)
to stalk off
to take s.t. away
to let s.t. go
the one with "Paddington the Bear" on it
to give s.o. money not to do something
to think about s.t.
the next thing I know...
to be beaming
to be $(amount) richer
"How pathetic is that?"
"Go get 'em, Mom."
Randy Newman (great song!)
1. Summarize "X's" family situation, and what these letters are mainly about.
2. What nice thing did the boy do for his younger sister, and what did he say was his motivation for doing it?
3. a. What did the boy do for his mother on her birthday? b. How old is "X" now? c. How old is the boy? d. How old was the boy when Mike left? e. Why does Mike "get to stay 23 forever"?
4. Explain the meaning of these expressions in the context of this report: a. killer ride; b. fake barfing noises; c. "like you'd tell me." d. "Keep a stiff upper lip"; e. bumper sticker; f. compilation tape (or "mix tape").
5. a. What happened when the boy started wearing a hat with "Porn Star" written on it? b. How did the writer feel about how the situation was resolved? c. Why did the boy say, "Yeah, please get me the one with 'Paddington the Bear' on it"? d. Why did the boy say, "Go get 'em, Mom!"
6. What does this mean: "You take up a lot of room for a guy who's not here."