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  • English Listening Exercise: I Bought a Little City

    One of my all-time favorite English podcasts to listen to for a long time is The New Yorker magazine’s fiction podcast. It features modern writers reading their favorite short fiction pieces from past issues of The New Yorker, and then discussing them with the magazines fiction editor. I’ve always thought the podcast would make a good English listening exercise, and finally got around to putting one together.

    Donald Barthelme

    For the first one, I chose one of my all-time favorite short stories, by Donald Barthelme, “I Bought a Little City.” The story is very eccentric, and takes the reader into a strange world, where the narrator has somehow bought the city of Galveston, Texas, and begins to make changes to it.

    This is a fairly advanced English listening exercise, but the great thing about podcasts is that they can be listened to over and over again. You can listen to “I Bought a Little City” by clicking here. The podcast is free, and can be downloaded and listened to on an mp3 player, or listened to on your computer.

    Below you’ll find a list of questions about the reading. Enjoy! If you would like to take a class on this listening exercise, and review your answers, click here to contact us.

    And told everybody that ______ had to move we were _____ __ __ __ just ________.

    What a ____ little city, it _____ __ ___. It suited me fine, __ _ _______ __ ______ __.

    What did he do with the people on I street?

    What does he mean when he says “We planted it all to hell?”

    What happens with the bongo drums at the park? What do you think about the actors reaction? What does he say about Democracy in this part?

    So I ___ to talking to one of _____ ______.

    _____ how much ______ are you _____ __?

    What is the problem with ground?

    Well, I said, get a pencil and let’s see what we can ____ __.

    When you look, you don’t want to be able to look at ___ ___ _____ , you want to be able to _____ your ____.

    How many things does the narrator think you need to look at?

    How does Bill Caufield solve the problems for the new neighborhood?

    “______ here,” he said. If each piece of ground was like a piece of ____ ____ puzzle, and the ____ ____ on each piece of property followed the outline of a piece of the puzzle, well ____ ___ ____ __, ___, and ______ ___ ___ _____.”

    What do the last three phrases spoken by Bill mean?

    What 3 problems does the narrator see with Bill’s proposal?

    What was the only thing the narrator didn’t like in the end?

    What did he wonder?

    How did he solve this?

    What did Butch’s owner say he felt like doing to the narrator?

    How does he describe Sam Hong’s wife?

    I took a ____ on that deal, there’s no _______ it.

    What does the previous sentence mean?

    Where does he think he went wrong?

    How does he describe his feelings for Hong’s wife?

    How would you describe the style of this story? Do you think the author was trying to make a point? How are democracy, god, capitalism and government portrayed in the story?