(Image: The Story Prize)
(Image: The Story Prize)

Welcome to “Could it be a movie?,” a segment in which Lindsey reads stuff and tells you whether or not the written materials would make good movies. In this installment, we look at a great American short story by John Cheever.

“The Enormous Radio”

Who wrote it?:
John Cheever

Where does it appear?:
May 17, 1947 issue of The New Yorker magazine
The Enormous Radio and Other Stories by John Cheever
The Stories of John Cheever, a 1978 anthology of Cheever’s work

Jim and Irene Westcott are by all accounts a completely normal, happy couple living in a New York City apartment building. The two enjoy listening to music, and when their radio stops working, Jim buys an expensive new one for $400. But when the new radio arrives, Irene finds that it isn’t exactly functioning the way it’s meant to: she can hear what’s going on in every apartment in the building rather than hearing music from it. As Irene becomes obsessed with eavesdropping on her neighbors, she begins to doubt the happiness of her own marriage and turns to Jim for reassurance.

Would it make a good movie?:
This story has been adapted for TV and radio, but never for film. The premise of a woman listening to the radio may not sound like a very promising prospect for adaptation into a feature length film, but this story is one of the most engrossing I’ve ever read and makes a fantastic commentary on suburban life of the 1940s and beyond. I can completely see it working as a film, provided that Irene’s reaction to what she hears on the radio was played up in a somewhat exaggerated way as she slowly descends into a dark place the more she hears from the radio. The radio itself is a character in this story, and while a film based on it may be a bit of a slow-burner, it could definitely work. If I had any skill at all in production I would make it happen right this instant.

Purchase THE STORIES OF JOHN CHEEVER on Amazon and a portion of the sale will go to TMP! Cheever’s stories are fantastic, and I highly recommend his work to any classic film fan, because often he deals with the conventions of life in the 20th century.