Sunday, April 19, 2015

Library of America Story of the Week Read-Along 273: Arthur Miller, Mare Island and Back (#273)

Arthur Miller, "Mare Island and Back" (1945) published for the first time in Arthur Miller: Collected Plays 1987–2004, with Stage and Radio Plays of the 1930s & 40s:

I'm excited to see Arthur Miller's radio plays get some attention in the LoA, if only because they are radio plays: a large segment of our cultural heritage that we don't really pay attention to, except for one-off incidents (Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First?", Orson Welles's "War of the Worlds") or properties that stretched beyond radio (The Lone Ranger).

That said, I find it odd to read a radio play. Sure, a big reason why we don't remember a lot of radio work is that it was literally ephemeral, floating in on the airwaves at a particular time and place. And, again, sure, the Library of America focuses on books and printed material.

But really, at least some of these radio experiences were recorded and aren't that hard to find. Perhaps it's time that the LoA starts thinking about the multimedia experience of some of its collections.

Because, really, without the radio show, it feels like we're only hearing half the story here.

(And yes, if you couldn't tell, I don't have much to say about this so-so radio play: a doctor deals with three wounded men during the war, two who want to give up, and a third who believes he can fly a plane despite his amputation. Of course, this being Arthur Miller, everyone has a happy ending. OK, so at least I can say that: whether pressured or natively optimistic, Miller's work here doesn't really read like his other plays.)

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