Magazine article The New Yorker

A Note to Our Readers

Magazine article The New Yorker

A Note to Our Readers

Article excerpt

A NOTE TO OUR READERS

In 1971, Stanley Elkin, a sorely underrated novelist of the postwar era, published a comic picaresque called "The Dick Gibson Show." It remains the best book ever written about radio, exploring the breadth of American lunacy and beauty through the stories and the experiences of an itinerant radio host. Dick Gibson makes his living talking through the night with Arnold the Memory Expert, a nine-year-old millionaire orphan, and every manner of huckster and grifter imaginable. He was modelled on broadcasting oddballs like Long John Nebel, Joe Pyne, and Barry Gray, a night-club sophisticate who, as legend has it, got so fed up with playing big-band records on the air that he held the earpiece of his phone to his mike so that he could have an on-air conversation with Woody Herman. When Gray started taking calls from listeners, he helped reinvent a medium--and unleash a new element in American politics.

Radio and its digital outgrowth, podcasts, have superseded, in creativity and intimacy, Long John Nebel's greatest efforts to sell tall tales about his encounters with extraterrestrial beings. …

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