Goldie-Oldies: Nostalgia in Literature and Radio

In Allison Green’s unconventional travel memoir, The Ghosts Who Travel with Me, nostalgia is a running theme. Green devotes just as much time to journeying down memory lane as she does to retracing the famous trout-fishing trip of sixties counterculture writer Richard Brautigan. The Ghosts Who Travel with Me lovingly describes Green’s golden memories of the sixties, which she was too young at the time to truly understand or enjoy; of Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America, one of her favorite books as a teenager; and of her own ancestral places and forebears. Green’s literary pilgrimage through Washington and Idaho becomes a quest to reconnect with these formative events, people, and places as an adult.

Perhaps it is appropriate, then, that Allison Green likes to connect with her audience through the medium of radio, which many have declared outmoded in this age of internet podcasts. Few are now alive who remember the golden age of radio, when families gathered around the living room radio every evening instead of the television set; however, most people can easily recall listening to their parents’ favorite stations as children—and many remember the battles that ensued over the radio dial when they reached adolescence and developed their own opinions about “good” music! Radio is familiar, comfortable, and steeped in personal memories—what better venue for Green and The Ghosts Who Travel with Me?

Despite the dawn of the digital age and the old-timey patina that good ol’ radio has acquired as a result, according to an article on the Slate website, terrestrial radio is in no danger of going extinct. In fact, it wouldn’t even qualify as endangered—over 90 percent of Americans age twelve and up still tune in to a traditional radio station at least once a week. This is because terrestrial radio still has several advantages over those newfangled podcasts: it costs listeners nothing save the one-time expense of purchasing a radio unit; it is more accessible to a broader range of people than podcasts, for which internet access is a necessity; and it is several times more profitable for station owners and content creators.

Instead of replacing classic radio, podcasts are increasingly being used to serve niche markets or even to supplement radio programming in some capacity. For instance, podcasts have proven to be an excellent method of disbursing radio content to people who either missed a broadcast or don’t live or work within the original station’s range. Allison Green herself has taken advantage of this alliance between the old and the new. Earlier this summer, she was interviewed by Kate Raphael of Berkeley, California’s KPFA 94.1 FM for the show Women’s Magazine, and by Marcia Perlstein of Port Townsend, Washington’s KPTZ 91.9 FM for the show Under the Rainbow. After the original broadcasts were aired, both stations posted podcast versions of Green’s interviews to their websites, effectively doubling their audience.

The combination of terrestrial radio and internet podcasts unifies the past with the present and the future, much like Allison Green did on her literary pilgrimage through Brautigan’s Idaho. No matter how far technology advances, or how much we grow up, we will always have a place in our hearts for the goldie-oldies.

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