Radio Daze: A Descent Into Collecting

Radio Daze: A Descent Into Collecting

By Aaron Zevy

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Radio Daze: A Descent Into Collecting

When acclaimed comic writer Aaron Zevy began to collect vintage radios, his friends and family hoped they might get a respite from the barrage of short stories which had been filling their inboxes.

After all, how much trouble can one man, no matter how unusual and prone to social and dating mishaps he might be, get into while engaged in a sedate hobby ordinarily associated with reticence and retirement?

In Radio Daze, Zevy, often joined with his usual associates - the Ketel and cran drinking Lewberg and the misanthropic Goldfarb - weaves tales and vignettes of his time obsessively collecting antique radios.

From oldest to newest, each chapter is named after a radio. But after the Table of Contents, all semblence of order and organization, quickly disappear.

These radios, in a multitude of beautiful designs and colors, are indeed very real. The stories however, are pure Zevy - almost the truth.

Don't try to figure it out. Just sit back and enjoy.


Reviews

From Publisher's Weekly

This impeccably photographed and imminently enjoyable collection of stories finds Zevy, the storyteller behind Schlepping Across the Nile, recounting the joy of hunting and preserving vintage radios, from a 1938 Emerson Bullseye with its “unmistakable and stunning Sakhnoffsky design” to a 1975 Spider-Man transistor radio ordered off Ebay to dazzle a grandnephew. As in Zevy’s other amusing collections of not-quite-nonfiction stories, Radio Daze is penned in a polished, wisecracking, conversational style that wastes few words, this time offering insight into the role radios play in his personal life and our collective history while also exploring a resonant question: What lengths would you go to add the perfect piece to the collection you treasure but that others may find a little weird?

Zevy would go pretty far. His friends Allie, Lewberg, and Goldfarb try their best to reel him in, but for the most part, they have failed. Zevy has endured cranky neighbors, the film industry, and an unpredictable NFT market, to add to his impressive collection, documented here in striking photos. The vibrant colors of radios from the art deco and space-age eras are in compelling harmony with the designs. But his “descent” doesn’t come at the cost of his decency. Touchingly, when he scores his top-of-the-list dream find, a 1946 Cyarts manufactured with Plexon and Lucite, for a surprisingly good price at a Miami pawn shop, he posts a cautious note online inviting anyone who’s had such a radio stolen to contact him.

As always, Zevy makes no claim to the factual veracity of these tales, which build to wry twists, sharp jokes, and incisive, even prankish surprises—in fact, the one about the Spider-Man transistor radio ends with family members telling him it would work better if he made it less true. For all the radio history, here, Zevy’s real subiect is collecting itself; let radios stand in for any of our passions, pursued and collected over the years, and Radio Daze will often show ourselves.

Takeaway: Funny, surprising stories of a collector’s passion for gorgeous vintage radios.

From BookWatch Reviews

Zevy presents a collection of stories about collecting old radios in this memoir.

Radio Daze: A Descent Into Collecting pairs lovely color photos of Aaron Zevy's personal antique radio collection with a chronicle of how he became enamored of radios from the 1930s and 40s. He built his attraction and historical knowledge from the unexpected development of a writer's block which led him to turn his attention to collecting for respite and rejuvenation.

Most book introductions provide staid background information, but Zevy's colorful way of capturing his passion brings its origins to life in a manner that portends an equally colorful series of stories:

"Someone even had the temerity to use the line "if these radios could talk, oh what stories they could tell." I threw that person out of my house. Let the radios be, I pleaded. Let them sit on their shelves, and let them sing their songs of unbearable static. They were not literary devices. They were not writing exercises. They were just old radios. And then, as you may have guessed, I wrote a story. And then another. And then this book."

'The Radio Contest' opens the collection with a memoir of Zevy's youth and entering a radio station contest that promised coveted concert tickets as a prize. There was only one special challenge to winning-a father's strict rule about dinner time and phone calls.

Readers won't expect the diversity of stories which chronicle lives, bygone years, and early dating scenarios in which radio collections were not to be mentioned.

The lively intersection of memoir and radio history represents a rare conjoined history of fate and snafus involved in growing a collection, an interest, and a mindset. The reflections on particular pieces that proved a collecting challenge or the backgrounds and appearances that made these radios a major attraction to Zevy form the foundations of a series of interlinked stories that will attract and educate even readers who held little prior interest in radio history or collecting.

A good collection of stories will reach beyond its intended audience to surprise, delight, and entertain the masses.

Radio Daze: A Descent Into Collecting's ability to reach beyond radio's signals and into the lives of any reader who has cultivated a passion for collecting, art, or history makes it a top recommendation for general-interest lending libraries as well as specialty media collections. Book clubs interested in an uncommon, exceptionally lively blend of memoir and collector's passion will find Radio Daze: A Descent Into Collecting will provoke all manner of connection and lively discussion.

From Kirkus Reviews

Zevy presents a collection of stories about collecting old radios in this memoir.

“Radios are my thing,” writes the author in what certainly must be the understatement of the year. His book tells the story of this overwhelming collector’s urge: He fell under the spell of vintage radios early in life, came to know them very well, and started collecting them. Several of the radios are presented in these pages as the linchpins of stories relating moments from both Zevy’s adventures as collector and from his life with his friends and family. Inevitably, some of the stories feature high degrees of nerdy punctilio (the author notices, at one point, that a set in the movie Goodfellas features a 1956 Motorola radio in a scene that takes place in 1978), but Zevy regularly counterbalances this element with everyman observations about everything from dealing with delivery services to negotiating with sketchy dealers. He likewise softens the ultra-niche nature of his own specific interest by painting an effective portrait of what it’s like to be a dedicated collector—not just of vintage radios, but of anything. Readers are shown every aspect of the life of a collector, from the “honeymoon phase” (that was “affecting a judgment which was already teetering on the edge of sanity”) to the resigned and world-weary later stages of accepting that virtually nobody else will understand the obsession. To help give readers context for his avocation, the author includes clear color photos of all of his focal-point radios.

The author begins the chapter titled “1947 Northern Electric Baby Champ,” for instance, by recounting a drive from Montreal to Toronto in 1977 to start his first year in university. Of course, he’s aware of the limited appeal of his subject; he mentions it several times. “For a while, every time I received a new radio, I would take a photograph and post it on our family group chat,” he writes; most of his family would just ignore him. This wry self-deprecation buoys the narrative and saves it from being a pure exercise in the tedium of inflicting a family album on a stranger. And he’s consistently funny when describing the various astonished reactions his collection elicits from normal people. In the chapter titled “1954 Sparton Football,” for instance, he reports that the most common question he gets is whether or not all those old radios actually work. “It is a bit of a tricky question because, although the great majority do work, they don’t get very good, or actually any, reception where I live,” he writes. “So, I end up giving Bill Clinton-like answers – ‘it depends on your definition of works.’ ” The cumulative effect of these quips and relatable storytelling ultimately saves the book from being for fellow collectors only.

A surprisingly engaging look at the life of an avid collector.

From Blue Ink Reviews

Humorist Aaron Zevy’s latest book, Radio Daze, offers short stories, each relating to a vintage radio from his prized collection.

“Collecting and addiction are separate words, but I’m not entirely sure they are all that different,” quips Zevy in this new work. His extensive vintage (1938-1974) radios line the walls of almost every room in his home. Chapters begin with a photograph from the collection: each a work of art evoking a bygone era. As is his way, Zevy blends fact and fiction, resulting in comical, offbeat stories.

Entries include a golfing rabbi with a wicked slice; a “prehistoric reptile about 18 inches long” (evasively loose in the house); a mangled radio from war-torn Ukraine, and a reprise visit from the Angel of Death. In one memorable story, Zevy discovered that a radio in his collection was likely a looted Nazi radio. He flew to New York to participate in a ceremony returning items to the owners’ ancestors. He eventually replaced it, quipping, “I’m pretty sure it [the replacement] hadn’t been stolen. But I didn’t display it just in case.”

Readers familiar with Zevy’s writing will welcome the return of his wingmen, the Ketel and Cran drinking Goldfarb and the sometimes-dour Lewberg, amusing foils in many stories.

Zevy uses his trademark staccato style, and each story ends with a one-line zinger, usually eliciting a smile or a chuckle."

"Aaron Zevy is a Canadian Comedy writer who happened to go down the path of collecting (and to some degree obsessing) over good old fashioned table radios and pocket portables. Since I have quite a few five tube classics in my collection, this book caught my eye when it showed up as an ad on my Facebook feed. I reached out to Aaron and he was happy to get a copy of his book to me for a nice Beach Read. When was the last time you read a book related to the radio hobby that was laugh out loud funny? For those of us initiated into the deeper depths of the radio world, you will even get more enjoyment from the reading than maybe the folks the book was originally intended for. Zevy's book is a series of personal anecdotes, each of which surrounds the acquisition of one radio or another. The radio for each story includes a picture that, as a collector myself, often leaves me drooling. For example, his somewhat well used 1960 Zenith Royal 50 harkens back to my own Silvertone 6 Transistor my Grandfather gave me for my 6th Birthday. (I still have it)"