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Self-soothe with these recordings of artists reading everyday texts.

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April 5, 2021, 1:32pm

There’s much to celebrate at the moment: it’s spring, vaccinations are becoming widely available, Cadbury Cream Eggs are steeply discounted at Walgreen’s… But in case you’re still looking for a way to quiet your racing mind, may I recommend Oral Florist?

Created (or “arranged”) by writer and translator Rita Bullwinkel and made possible with the support of Minnesota Street Project Adjacent, Oral Florist is—in addition to being a very satisfying name to say—a “sound library of artists reading aloud texts they encounter in their daily lives.”

These recordings are an ode to the joy of being startled by language, of reading something that makes you feel a feeling you weren’t expecting, at a time when you were not expecting to feel anything. These recordings are evidence that, in a life carefully noticed, one might be able to find playfulness and humor and love and beauty and sadness in many places that lie outside the confines of what is typically categorized as “literature.”

You can view the collection as a library and click through individual readers, but I prefer to click around in the garden, where you don’t know who’s voice you’ll hear until the person begins speaking and introduces themselves. In both the library and the garden, the readings are accompanied by lovely animations of blooming flowers. The experience is exactly as lovely as it sounds.

A few of my favorites so far are Diane Williams reading from a copy of Lloyd E. Smith’s How to Improve Your Conversation, which identifies chewing gum as a “conversational stimulant” (but only on New York City buses and subways), musician Benjamin Booker reading—in almost impossibly soft, soothing tones—a guide to the rich tapestry of baby poop, and C Pam Zhang reading a very tender comment from Reddit about meeting a partner later in life.

The site is a treasure trove, and makes me long for the day (soon!) when we’ll once again be out in the world, stumbling upon things.

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