this is the memory palace…

It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense. – Mark Twain

If there were an official fan club for The Memory Palace, I’d run for president. I’d imagine it the sort of club with card-carrying members sporting lapel pins with icons from different episodes and wearing secret-decoder rings. And I’d like my secret-decoder ring to look like one of those fabulous cocktail baubles my grandmother wore in the sixties – because who said ciphers can’t be glam?

As a writer, I find the greatest aspect of my work not the actual writing but the research – culling fabulous, priceless, useless, crucial bits of information and inspiration from films and books and dinner party conversations.

Writing allows me to get to know a little bit about a lot of things. Sometimes, quite a lot. Whether I’m writing a magazine article or doing character research for a script, I am at my happiest when marinating in a sea of information.

About two years ago, my aunt introduced me to TMP, a podcast series created by her friend, Nate DiMeo. And I was hooked.

Nate gathers these incredible stories, facts that somehow slipped between the pages of our textbooks and faded from history, and gives them life in these beautifully written, often heart-wrenching, vignettes.

Don’t be put off by the need for a tissue or two. Consider it all the more reason to listen.

Generally running about six minutes an episode, Nate blends his gift for capturing the essence of these long forgotten people and places with moving soundtracks. (Always check out the Music, Footnotes & Ephemera after each podcast – the beauty is in the details.)

My introduction to TMP was with The Brothers Booth, which blew my always info-hungry mind in a million ways – and remains my favorite. But I have a lot of favorites. Like Nee Weinberg. And 400 Words for 79th Street. And Gigantic, which had me in tears late one night last week as I listened to it again. Trust me, you will listen to them again. And again.

Did I mention that they’re free? I still can’t wrap my head around that one. Nothing this good is free. And yet it is.

We spend so much time looking at the world – on TV, online, in print. The idea of listening to a story is truly a luxury. Our information tends to come with sensory overload. Multi-tasking sensory overload.

So, give yourself a gift. Take a few minutes to sit and simply listen. Start with The Brothers Booth. Start anywhere. And please come back and tell me what you think. xo a.

And thanks, Nate. The Palace is magnificent.

PS You can listen to TMP episodes on the site or download podcasts on iTunes, here. And, if you’re lucky enough, you just might hear an episode on your local public radio station. Sign up here to stay updated on TMP comings and goings.


One thought on “this is the memory palace…

  1. Peter Tonguette

    Alex, you introduced me to the Memory Palace, and I’ve been a fan ever since. Completely agree with your last comment, about the unique pleasures of listening to a story, as opposed to reading or watching one. I write this as someone who tries to never miss an episode of “This American Life,” and who listens to Orson Welles’s “War of the Worlds” broadcast every Halloween!


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