When I saw "Bob Edwards" I pounced on this Netgalley offering, and was glad to be granted access – thank you to them. Probably twenty years ago a friend twigged me on to NPR, and I didn't look at another radio station for years. The only reason I stopped listening in 2008 was that I reached my tolerance level for politics and had to have music – but I missed Morning Edition and All Things Considered; I missed Bob Edwards and Carl Kassel and Michele Norris and Robert Siegel and Linda Wertheimer and Nina Totenberg and Steve Innskeep and Renee Montagne (and Faith Middleton and Kai Ryssdal and John Dankosky and Ray Hardman) like friends removed from my life. But I could not tolerate even one more minute of election coverage. (Yay – we're coming up on that time rapidly again. Hurrah.) I began listening again a while later, but with one thing and another it has not been practical to have it on in the car or at work. And I miss it.
It's the gaps in my listenership that explain how I did not know that Bob Edwards was – for reasons unknown, at least to Bob – fired from his position as the Voice of Morning Edition for just cruelly shy of 25 years. I'd heard something, knew that the hosting duties had passed on, but the ripples never reached me, somehow. And I'm utterly dismayed. This memoir is, in places, disconcerting in its bitterness against NPR in general but more specifically Ken Stern – not that I in any way think Bob Edwards doesn't have the right to be deeply bitter. I think he's been class itself in how he's handled the ridiculous and inexplicable situation. But it leaves me deeply disappointed in my beloved NPR. Damn. Suddenly I'm glad I wasn't connected at the time. Still, his affection for and loyalty to his fellow broadcasters, his guests, and above all his listeners throughout the years is uppermost.
A Voice in the Box is what Bob Edwards wanted to be from his earliest memories, always enamored with the magic of radio. And that is what he became, through a textbook example of reaching goals through sheer determination, focus, hard work, and refusal to give up. He takes us through his youth to an enviable college experience, to his first penny-ante jobs and into his stint on (Armed Forces Radio) in Korea and, eventually, to NPR and out again. A lot of what attracted me to NPR is what led him there – intelligence and a sense of humor; and, of course, his long presence there contributed to the same.
But, as Morning Edition moved on, so did he. One of the job offers he was almost immediately presented with was a daily show on what was XM Radio – and he very shortly joined Channel 133. And there he has been able to concentrate his focus on exactly where he wants it to go, to do more of purely what he wants to do – which is, for the most part, to talk to people. His passion for finding out people's stories is what always made him such a wonderful companion, and … I admit it. Now I want Sirius XM Radio.
If the bitterness made this difficult to read, there was still much joy to be found in the anecdotes about fellow broadcasters and about the wild variety of people he interviewed through his career. I know and love cowboy, poet, philosopher, former large-animal veterinarian (not vegetarian) Baxter Black; I did not know Father Greg Boyle, and I hope to find the stories about him archived somewhere. The same goes for "Stories from 3rd Med – Surviving a Jungle ER": "There were no defibrillators available to 3rd Med, so Dr. Jack Hagan and corpsman John Little fashioned one from a pair of kitchen knives, an electrical cord, and a generator." And so on. It wouldn't be hard to listen to nothing but archived stories for the next few years. I'm tempted.
I've been subscribed to the podcast of his weekend show for a while now, and – yes, there's Bob Edwards, the dry humor and warm deep voice with whom I spent my morning commutes and – when I was lucky and had complete control over what I listened to – my mornings at work. It was a pleasure to meet him more thoroughly in these digital pages.
Now I want Carl Kassell's biography. (And his voice on my answering machine.)
Thank you, Bob.
~~ Abridged version of what's on my blog ...