In Review

Podcasts of the week: exploring work strife and faked deaths

Featuring Pseudocide, How’s Work?, and The Rob Auton Daily Podcast

You may know of the psycho-therapist Esther Perel from her couples therapy podcast Where Should We Begin?, in which she dispenses advice that’s “startling in its precision and candour”, says Fiona Sturges in the FT. It’s brilliant, but her second foray into podcasting, How’s Work?, is touched by “genius”. The podcast, which has just begun a second series, also involves couples – but these are warring colleagues; or business partners who’ve fallen out; or spouses at odds over their working lives. The series illumin-ates how work is tied up with identity and self-confidence, and is based on the clear under-standing that “we, the listeners”, are “looking for echoes of our own situations”. We are “all different and we are all the same. If anyone can fix us, it’s surely Perel”. 

Alice Fiennes and Poppy Damon are experienced podcasters who previously gave us the excellent Murderabilia, about the people who collect artefacts associated with real-life killers, said Miranda Sawyer in The Observer. Their terrific new series, Pseudocide – about people who fake their own deaths – is equally “fascinating” and “weird”. They explore the life of a 14th century nun who faked her death to pursue a life of “carnal lust”. There’s the strange tale of a disappearing shopping-channel host, and the familiar, but still astonishing, story of the Labour MP John Stonehouse. But my favourite episode, said James Marriott in The Times, is about Kaycee Nicole, a teenage basketball player and blogger who gained a wide online following before tragically dying of cancer in 2001. Or rather, who didn’t die of cancer, and who never played basketball, because she turned out to be a “bored, middle-aged lady named Debbie”. 

Occasionally, real podcast gems can get overlooked because they don’t fit into any obvious categories, said The Daily Telegraph. Here are three “weird and wonderful” podcasts that fall into that category. The Rob Auton Daily Podcast is “concise, intriguing and cherishably odd”. But is it comedy, poetry, social history or philosophy? “You could file these gnomic circadian musings” by the Yorkshire writer and stand-up comic under any of the above. Episode 73, Lego Truths, is a good one. The ghosts of Black Mirror and Blue Jam haunt Murmurs – a set of ten strange tales each told in “a collage of conversational snatches and ambient sound. It’s ideal bedtime listening: headphones and a dark room are a must.” Start with episode 1: Over and Out. Last, try the “wonderful” Imaginary Advice from poet Ross Sutherland. You’ll find ambient music, an experimental documentary about washing machines, and a cut-up poem made from clips of John Humphrys on the Today programme. Start with episode 45: S.E.I.N.F.E.L.D. 

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