Lizzie's Reviews > The Enormous Radio

The Enormous Radio by John Cheever
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Jul 09, 2012

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bookshelves: 2012, for-school, short-stories, e-book

I am almost sure that, funnily enough, I have heard this story before on the radio. It was familiar to me once I realized what was happening.

The goings-on are slightly fantastical in a way that's essential for allegory. An odd new radio comes into the home of a perfect family, and the fabric of real life is peered into. Tuning the frequency somehow picks up different apartments in their building, and the wife becomes obsessed with the voyeurism. (view spoiler) She's compelled to compare her own life to those she is spying on, and the pointed consequences are somewhat predictable.

I did like this, but as a story it is very light and straightforward. The depth mainly seems to come from its prescience. First of all, I can't tell whether it's wonderful or a shame that its writing predates the ubiquity of television, which as we now know would obviously make an even more apt device for this plot. I bet there's a paper for someone to write about the way the characters cope with this knowledge in the story vs. the way reality television and social media are coped with now. Does sharing the mundanity of a breakfast Tweet bring us closer? Do we know more than we can bear about the terrible things happening to people in the world? There are people almost obscenely tuned in to the feed of available information, and yet there are still people unable to watch the news because it upsets them.

Maybe this story works better as commentary than as a story, but either way it works.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Such a great story.


Lizzie The ending kind of ruined it for me? It's very very very very blunt, which doesn't feel extremely strong to me. But I love the idea, and it's kind of hilarious and horrible because it's pretty easy to relate to. I for sure have a voyeuristic side that would have me oozing right into that radio if it were me.

(Remember the cordless phones of the 90's that picked up other people's phones, and baby monitors?)


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