“The Enormous Radio” in Radio Form

A few weeks ago, in my Beginning Fiction class, we read John Cheever’s short story “The Enormous Radio,” which was published in the New Yorker in 1947. I’ve always liked that story, and it still seems relevant today, what with MySpace and YouTube. Now I just came across this 1956 radio adaptation from CBS Radio Workshop. It’s interesting to see what choices were made in the course of turning the story into a radio play; for instance, Cheever barely paid any attention to the maid in the story (the reader doesn’t find out her name is Emma until the very end), and certainly he doesn’t give any idea about her race, but in the radio adaptation she is played by someone who is clearly going for a black character. Both the avoidance of race in the story (no one’s is mentioned) and the recourse to stereotypes in the adaptation seem to me to be reflections of the times, and I wonder what people will say in fifty years about today’s stories, and about our blind spots.

The picture above is of my own, enormous radio: An old Philco we picked up at an antiques store in Portland a few years ago.