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Radios: Short Takes on Life and Culture Hardcover – August, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

A range of pieces that prove why Stern was one of the most popular commentators for National Public Radio until his death in 1996.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

The spoken word translates neatly into the written in this posthumous collection of microessays from National Public Radio commentator Stern (Making Shapely Fiction, not reviewed, etc.). Two or three minutes of radio airtime equals about the same number of written pages, which would normally seem too constricted for a personal essay. It turns out to be just enough, however, for Stern to create his artful prose miniatures: say, to cover a topic like the social ritual of the dessert cart's temptations; to relate an anecdote of brazen cafeteria line-jumping or a reminiscence of school ``hobby day''; or to play out the conceit of an existential airline's announcement: ``Remain comfortably seated, for this trip may be your first or your last, or one of the many trips you will take so . . .'' These ``radios'' (as opposed to ``papers'') are rooted in the everyday, with Stern favoring his memories of family dynamics (``Reading the Refrigerator''), his experiences of teaching and being taught (``Looking for Mr. Keats''), and the close scrutiny of kitchen appliances, such as ice trays and rotisseries. Stern conjures up arrestingly small details, such as the changing fashions of Christmas tree lights or the brand of highlighter (the ``Personalizer'') used to mark the targets for radiation therapy on his body. Stern's ongoing mysterious illness punctuates this miscellany like a mildly cliff-hanging radio serial while he recounts testing, diagnosis, and treatment. Throughout, Stern keeps his ear tuned for good dialogue, even one of his nurses discussing the life expectancy of her kids' pet fish; and his mind is always primed for an artful turn of phrase--undergoing chemotherapy, he describes the radiation machine's sound as ``the sizzling crackle of a patio bug zapper.'' Pleasantly diverting observations on passing life, ideal for short-attention-span meditations. (drawings by author, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (August 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393041190
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393041194
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.7 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,509,530 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 10, 1997
Format: Hardcover
This is a beautifully written book. It's lovely. And it's short, made up of a number of small, tight, very nice mini-essays. Mark Twain once sent a long letter to a freind with an apology, that he did not have time to write a short letter. Short and good takes a lot more time than long and boring. This is a well crafted collection worth reading.
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Format: Hardcover
Jerome Stern was a commentator for National Public Radio and well respected by the audience for his short and concise takes on life. Radios, published posthumously, is a selection from these short radio essays (hence "Radios") that highlights the efforts of his career.

Whether waxing eloquently about a childhood memory, relating his experiences in family dynamics, or including us in the very personal aspects of the illness that ultimately brought about his untimely death, Stern's prose is able to do what most writers cannot: paint a vivid picture in the reader's (or listener's) head in a brief timespan and a concise manner.

And, that is one of the aspects of this collection that makes it so valuable - it is a great example of that most difficult art, the short essay.

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A Guide to my Book Rating System:

1 star = The wood pulp would have been better utilized as toilet paper.
2 stars = Don't bother, clean your bathroom instead.
3 stars = Wasn't a waste of time, but it was time wasted.
4 stars = Good book, but not life altering.
5 stars = This book changed my world in at least some small way.
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