Despite its importance, the story of radio’s literary impact has long gone untold. This chapter describes the enormous impact radio had on the cultural lives of Americans throughout the 1930s and 1940s. It was a revolutionary medium, streaming a new symbolic language into homes across the country. The airwaves delivered jazz and classical music, entertained millions with serial comedies, and provided international news and commentary. Above all, radio told stories, not just to a handful of listeners around the proverbial campfire but to a mass audience. The question this chapter addresses is how literary sensibilities—however fleetingly—radicalized a broadcast medium and were in turn energized by it. Introducing upscale literary programming at the very moment that the broadcast medium was taking off in popularity was formative. If radio began to sound like the Penguin Classics, this was not an accident but a clever move by broadcast culture.
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