Listening Booth: Alice Isn’t Dead

The first episode of Alice Isn’t Dead, produced by the same folks who brought us Welcome to Night Vale, was released earlier this week, and I loved it.

I think I preferred it to Welcome to Night Vale–but no, I’m being unfair, because I cannot listen to Welcome to Night Vale without being lulled to sleep (not because the content matter is dull but rather because Cecil Palmer’s voice strikes that sleepy-time cadence in my brain, which combined with my difficulties in processing the spoken word without something to assist in focusing my attention, makes it difficult for me to listen to Night Vale). That said, I adore Jasika Nicole’s performance as the narrator–I love the way she speaks and sighs and laughs and how her voice goes soft and sometimes playful.

I also love how she is driving cross country in her truck. It reminds me of this post from tumblr which talks about how the road trip narrative lends itself so well to this sort of genre fiction.

However, even though I had an easier time listening to Alice Isn’t Dead, I decided that I wanted to write a transcript of it, not just for my benefit but for others as well. You can find the transcript here: [link]

I’m not sure why I decided to write my own transcript instead of finding a transcript, of which I’m sure several exist. After all, I am currently slowly catching up on Welcome to Night Vale by reading transcripts of the podcasts.

Actually, that’s a lie. I did it for several reasons. I thought it would be good practice in thinking a different way since I am trying to make the things I enjoy more accessible in general. It’s something that has been on my various social media feeds for quite some time and so I figured that I should attempt making my own platforms more accessible. I knew that I didn’t have the energy or time to describe every image that I reblogged, but I knew that I, at least, could be responsible for making the content that I produced more accessible, especially if I wanted to talk about Alice Isn’t Dead, which I do want to talk about it because I liked it a lot.

So I decided to write a transcript, and it gave me time to process it in a way that I hadn’t been able to before. Which doesn’t surprise me — I survived college not by writing notes in the way that I was “supposed” to but by drafting transcripts of the class. It helps me to write down the things I hear because I will not remember them, sometimes it feels like I don’t even truly understand it until I see it down on the paper.

 

So, when I began to transcribe, I realized that the way the narrator described the man with the yellow fingernails, the man with the word “thistle” written on his shirt, reminded me of how Carol Oates wrote Arnold Friend in Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been.

Except, I rather did enjoy Alice Isn’t Dead more than that short story which I think is required reading in both high school and college? I’m not sure.

I just know that there was a similarity even though the young girl in the short story doesn’t go anywhere and the narrator in the podcast drives and drives under a night sky, afraid that the man she saw is behind her, and is catching up.

The podcast structure is the narrator speaking to Alice through the truck radio. Music underlays most of the one-sided conversation that the narrator engages with Alice. Sometimes, there is nothing but silence as the narrator speaks, such as when she states that sometimes she hates Alice, more than any of them, and when she assures Alice that of course she cried after what she witnessed in the parking lot, and when she wonders if Alice left because of her.

Who is them? The narrator doesn’t elaborate but I am sure that the man with the yellow fingernails is one of them.

The structure is punctuated by radio clicks that occur when the narrator presses the button to speak into the radio. The narratives become disjointed as the narrator admits that she is avoiding tell Alice what she saw the man with the yellow fingernails do, and this avoidance turns into musings about the night sky, about why Alice left, and other things that allows the story to juxtapose mundanity and the supernatural, and to have those roles flip with subtle shift of voice and word.

The story has established such subtle relationships: the narrator with what she saw in the parking lot, the narrator with the landscape (at one point, she laughs about a strange little sign she saw but then she goes long about the night sky), the narrator with Alice.

I think though that what I liked most about the narrator is how tired she seemed, and how sad. How she had to assure Alice that of course she cried, of course she did, as if she was afraid that Alice, for whatever reason, would think she would have been unaffected, that she wouldn’t have cried, along with her quiet anxiety that Alice left because of her.

I hope they find each other. I hope they will be okay.

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