The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar, produced by This American Life is a riveting tale of a woman’s determination to uncover the truth of her family lineage, and settle the nearly 100 year old question of who Bobby Dunbar really is. I am willing to admit I was initially not thrilled to have to listen to an hour long audio story, however by the conclusion I found myself wishing the broadcast would never end. The audio was wonderfully composed so that their was layers of audio to add to the emotion, and beautifully organized so that the reader was fed small bits of information throughout so that you were constantly left wanting more.
The producers used various techniques to tell the story of Bobby Dunbar, who we now know to be Bruce Anderson. Active tape and talking, in which the speaker was talking as she flipped through the pages of various defense files, gives the listener a more vivid picture of the interview, and provides a lot more sounds on the metaphorical palette. Another instance of active tape and talking was used in the car, and as the subject speaks, the noise of the wind whipping past the car, and the engine running strikes the listener. Another powerful technique used by the producers is paragraph indenting. Frequently throughout the story, after a powerful moment, there is a quick break in the story, in which music matching the mood plays for a brief moment, and then the story continues on focusing on something different, much as a paragraph does in a written story. This technique gives the listener a moment to reflect on what just happened, while also providing a transition to the next chapter of the story. Lastly, the producers used layering to contrast the reading of a letter in the background, while the narrator was speaking over the other voice, summarizing their thoughts.
All in all, The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar is absolutely worth the hour listen. The combination of a wildly enthralling story with fantastic uses of a variety of storytelling techniques has made me a fan of This American Life.