As the host of the new podcast “LeVar Burton Reads” explains in the opening episode, “I think a bucket list item for a lot of millennials is to have LeVar Burton read them a bedtime story.”
For fans of Neil Gaiman, the latest episode of the show might be a close runner-up. Every week, Burton tackles a different piece of short fiction across multiple genres. This week’s episode finds the actor and erstwhile “Reading Rainbow” host in familiar fandom territory.
Burton gives a full disclosure disclaimer at the top that Gaiman, the author responsible for “American Gods,” “Stardust,” and the seminal comic book series “The Sandman,” is one of his favorite writers. But, listening to the episode, it’s hard not to figure that out even without the explanation. As he reads Gaiman’s short story “Chivalry,” the tale of an elderly woman who comes in possession of a priceless artifact via her corner Oxfam store, you can sense the smile creeping across Burton’s face the whole time.
But this show isn’t just him in front of a microphone, reading. The music and sound design of all seven episodes of the podcast have helped give the full sensory experience to listeners. The production behind “Chivalry” helps add layers of wonder and whimsy without losing the mystery that powers the story along.
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In true storyteller fashion, Burton’s contributions reflect the same warmth and enthusiasm he brought to his various TV endeavors. Reading this particular piece gives them the opportunity to show off some subtle voice work. Hearing him speak as an elderly British woman and a strapping medieval knight in rapid succession is its own reward.
As a Gaiman piece, it’s an ideal gateway for fans of “American Gods” or the author’s other adaptations who are looking to make the jump to his written work. Not just steeped in mythology, the story also has the trademark Gaiman collision of the ordinary and the particularly extraordinary, or as Burton puts it in the shows postscript, “the juxtaposition of those two opposites: the mundane and the fantastical.”
That extra added intro and outro, giving context of the story, show that this podcast is just as much about fostering a love for reading as it is for listening to it. Much like other short fiction podcasts, including “Selected Shorts” and the late great “Reading Aloud,” it’s enough commentary to help encourage lapsed or fresh readers to seek some other works beyond the one featured in the episode.
To hear the full episode in all of its Arthurian glory, listen below.
New episodes of “LeVar Burton Reads” are released every Tuesday, with additional advance episodes available on Stitcher Premium.