Lost Sound

The Forgotten Art of Radio Storytelling

By Jeff Porter

296 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 10 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2777-9
    Published: May 2016
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-2778-6
    Published: March 2016
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5168-0
    Published: March 2016

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From Archibald MacLeish to David Sedaris, radio storytelling has long borrowed from the world of literature, yet the narrative radio work of well-known writers and others is a story that has not been told before. And when the literary aspects of specific programs such as The War of the Worlds or Sorry, Wrong Number were considered, scrutiny was superficial. In Lost Sound, Jeff Porter examines the vital interplay between acoustic techniques and modernist practices in the growth of radio. Concentrating on the 1930s through the 1970s, but also speaking to the rising popularity of today’s narrative broadcasts such as This American Life, Radiolab, Serial, and The Organist, Porter's close readings of key radio programs show how writers adapted literary techniques to an acoustic medium with great effect. Addressing avant-garde sound poetry and experimental literature on the air, alongside industry policy and network economics, Porter identifies the ways radio challenged the conventional distinctions between highbrow and lowbrow cultural content to produce a dynamic popular culture.

About the Author

Jeff Porter teaches English at the University of Iowa.
For more information about Jeff Porter, visit the Author Page.


“Provides a much-appreciated and –needed work of solid, well-written scholarship on a subject that has too long been overlooked and underprized.”--Theatre Journal

“Porter takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the heyday of [radio storytelling] in the 1930s and 1940s United States. . . . This intriguing, amply researched analysis certainly brings a fine addition to the existing literature on radio history.”--European Journal of Communication

"Cogently and authoritatively written, Lost Sound is an exciting read for literary, sound, and communications studies enthusiasts alike."--Canadian Journal of Communication

“A fascinating perspective on broadcasting history, written in clear, often captivating, prose.”--Journal of American Folklore

“A valuable addition to literary, radio, sound and gender studies, at whose intersection it is located.”--parallax

"Jeff Porter has brilliantly filled the huge gap on radio's greatest contributions to twentieth-century American culture by offering the strongest argument to date that the first electronic mass medium brought something of genuine significance to the nation’s literary canon. Lost Sound is thorough and timely, and the narrative is lucid and consequential. I'm pleased and thrilled that there will now exist--at long last--a definitive work on the subject."--Michael C. Keith, Boston College

Multimedia & Links

Visit the author's website jeffporter.org.