Each summer National Public Radio (NPR) generates a list of books for us to consider reading. This summer they came up with a unique idea. They are doing a series of articles about travel and modes of transportation. Many of the stories have to do with books, but others have to do with musicals, time travel, books to read while you’re waiting to get on the bus, and even a story about a black family from the north that travels to the south on summer vacation without realizing that the “freedom summer” was in full swing. The titles of the pieces give you a feel for the diversity of what NPR came up with: “By Trolley, Train, Show Boat Or Surrey, These Musicals Will Move You,” “Travel Disasters Bring Out The Best, The Worst … And The Cannibalism,” “In ‘Little Engine That Could,’ Some See An Early Feminist Hero,” “’Freedom Summer’ And ‘The Watsons’: Powerful TV About A Civil Rights Journey,’ ” “These Books Were Made For Walking: Summer Reads To Stroll Through,” “Turn The Clock Back (Or Forward) With Time-Traveling Tales,” and “By Dragon, Drugs Or Giant Peach, Fantastic Trips For Every Reader.”
I particularly enjoyed the entry, “By Trolley, Train, Show Boat Or Surrey, These Musicals Will Move You,” in which Bob Mondello talks about musicals and how certain memorable numbers take place on forms of transportation. Meredith Willson’s The Music Man is a prime example of genius at work. As the first musical number begins, a train is pulling out of a station and a group of salesmen are talking about another salesman named Harold Hill who “doesn’t know the territory.” The train begins to move and the words they use seem to hiss in time with the hissing of the steam engine. As the train picks up speed, their speech becomes more rapid in time with the acceleration of the train and their words change to match the clicketyclack of the train on the rails. And this was penned by a man who played a “hayseed” bandleader from Iowa on radio for many years.
You can go to the series’ homepage for a list of all of the entries so far. You will see that some of them can be listened to while other entries can only be read. In all cases I suggest that you click on the title of an article that interests you so you can listen to it (if available), read the text associated with it, and enjoy related features that might be accessible. Those “other features” include imbedded videos, and related articles.
I recommend that you begin by reading the article associated with “Book Your Trip: Because Reading Is About the Journey.” It gives you a quick history of how the folks at NPR came up with this marvelous idea. After that, browse at your pleasure, or as they say at the end of the article, “As always, we know you have a choice when you listen, so we’d like to thank you for choosing NPR Airwaves. You are now free to move about the cabin.”