• Advanced English Listening Exercise: Bullet in the Brain

    One of my longtime favorite podcasts has been The New Yorker’s fiction podcast. In this podcast, The New Yorker invites modern authors to select and read their most favorite short fiction stories that the magazine has published, which happen to be among the best in American literature. The recordings are free to listen to on the web, or to download to your mp3 player.

    The stories make great advanced English listening exercises. The ideas are complex, and the grammar and vocabulary as difficult as it comes. The story I’ve chosen for this blog post, Bullet in the Brain, is particularly difficult. So difficult that I’m embedding a link here to a PDF version of the story so you can follow along (I recommend trying to listen first).

    The story is fairly short, but tells a fantastic story of a book critic going too far when he starts to criticize a bank robber. This audio includes some interesting insight from The New Yorker’s fiction editor, Deborah Treisman, and American author T.C. Boyle.

    Here is the link to the online audio of the story.

    Below you’ll find a list of listening questions to try and answer after hearing Bullet in the Brain. Click here to contact us if you’d like to take an English class based on this story.

    Why was Anders in a bad mood at the beginning of the story?

    What kind of temper did this put him in? Why does the author use this word?

    What was his job?

    What was he known for?

    What do you think “towering hatred” means?

    One of you tellers ____ the alarm, you’re all ____ ____, got it?

    What made Anders start laughing at the bank robbers?

    What did Anders do when he looked at the paintings on the ceiling?

    Why did Anders “burst out laughing” after the bank robber yelled at him?

    What did the robber do then?

    Why did Anders have so much time to think when the bullet passed through his brain?

    What did his dying mother say of his father?

    He did not remember when __________ began to remind him of _________ else.

    What is different about the way Coyle’s cousin speaks?

    What is the irony between Anders’ memory (the one he does think about) and his situation with the robbers?

    What words could you use to describe Anders’ personality in the present?

    What kind of person do you think Anders was, when you hear about the memories he didn’t think of?





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