26 April 2017

Open Letter to Brian Reed

Hello Brian,

I have just listened through to the last episode of S-Town, and am just now passing by Flint, Michigan to my right on Southwest Flight 336 (I promise I’m responsibly on airplane mode!).

I would first like to say, thank you for this podcast and all of your work that has gone into it.  You might just as well have called it Walden III (note: I am a former English major with an M.A. in Humanities and am in the death throes of a PhD program in Modern Studies, but fully admit that I’ve not read Walden II and Thoreau’s original is more years away from me than I care to admit, and though I think I recall it well, I likely am remembering it mythologically).  Nonetheless, the project, whether it’s really yours or John B. Macklemore’s, is a revelation for the humanist project – and I appreciate the time, and work, and life, and effort that went into it.

I started Chapter VII shortly after boarding this flight and I have to say that I was, for a moment, welling up all umbrage and outrage when I thought your final episode was going to posit and explore the idea that John (he is John to me too, now) killed himself because of a brain chemistry madness brought on by 35 year’s worth of poisoning himself.  By the end of the episode I was joyfully weeping – afraid that my flight attendants would think I was soused, because I ordered a second scotch and soda! – at the genius of John’s words describing a well-lived life, and at the heartbreak of the vast amount of ‘lost genius’ we have in this world (and perhaps, in particular, in this America), and, most of all, at the amount of life John was estimating we all spent at living (less the sleep, and the “jobs” {different from work, in capitalism}, and the administration {Kafka-esque waiting in late capitalism}).

Thank you for a well-made product – a fine podcast.  And thank you for your ability and your curiosity.  The time this took to put together and the distance between ‘episodes’ (not yours, but those that make up this whole story: the first email; the questionable call and follow-up trip; then the follow-up and follow-up…), coupled with the themes and ideas at play here, are epic.  You have created a modern epic.  Thank you.

I don’t write fan letters – or express appreciation of works to those I do not know – because I’m thoughtless and unkind and have an inflated sense of my own brain and generally think that I could have done – could have created a thing into being had I had the space and time and initiative.  (This is of course an arrogant and foolhardy notion, but it’s a part of the reason, I think, that I don’t express appreciation toward most works I enjoy).  This podcast – the editing and vision and content – is a masterwork of intellectual and empathic genius.  I am in your debt for making it.



Joel Seeger
Milwaukee, WI

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