The Enormous Radio

Short stories are valuable for the simple reason that everybody has time to read one. A novel is necessarily a complex undertaking and in this day and age, we are overloaded with so many appliances and distractions that an interest in novel reading, to say nothing of reading in general, has declined. Google, IPhones, MP3’s, NetFlix and Tivo are all various culprits in squashing the attention span of the general public and thus making people believe that reading takes too long and is too inconvenient. Will reading as a practice eventually die out altogether? That is not for me to say. But I very much believe the short story will outlast the Novel. Since this is the case, here is a great short story for people to read. In a sense, it is really about all of the above. The Enormous Radio, written by John Cheever is a story set in Manhattan during the 1940’s, detailing the almost-happy marriage between Jim and Irene Wescott, who decide to purchase a new radio. This radio seems like simply an additional luxury to their life, but it soon becomes apparent that it is, in fact, a menace. Every time it is turned on, a different domestic scene of another family’s life elsewhere in the apartment is broadcast; all of them involve scenes of violence, alcoholism and crumbling relationships that begin to tear the Wescotts apart. There has recently been a slight revival of interest in John Cheever, with a new biography of him having just come out called Cheever: A Life by Blake Bailey. He is about as quintessentially an American writer as one can find and The Enormous Radio, due to its message that owning commodities exposes our lives and alienates humans from relationships, is a quintessentially American story for this day and age as well as the late 40’s. The story can be found in The Stories of John Cheever.

1 thought on “The Enormous Radio”

  1. I’ve been reading Hardly Knew Her, a collection of short stories by Laura Lippman, and it is nice to pick up something on the bus, which is easier to get back into than a novel.

Comments are closed.