National Public Radio


Dear Ralph,

I have to say I am utterly amazed at your complete ignorance in your review of Marya Hornbacher's Wasted.

You are so narrow minded and obviously did not listen at all to the pain and suffering Marya Hornbacher has endured through her life.

People with anorexia are some of the most caring people in existence so concerned with other people's needs and expectations of them that they will stop at nothing to meet these. We do not choose to have anorexia just as people with cancer do not choose to have it.

For you to suggest that eating disordered people are selfish and craving attention is outrageous. We are the most secretive souls alive.

When I was living in my anorexic hell I wanted nothing from anyone and was terrified of the day that I would be found out and have my control snatched away from me. You have absolutely no comprehension of the hell eating disorders are and are one of those stupid people who contribute to the misconstrued understanding of the disease.

Marya Hornbacher went on a journey to hell and back as all us sufferers do and is now left with little health and a dramatically shortened life expectancy. If you consider a person to go to such extremes simply to gain attention then you have a pretty major screw loose up there.

Marya Hornbacher has given me an incentive to return to health and for that I shall be eternally grateful to her and her book. It must have taken so much courage to be so frank about the dark side of anorexia especially considering how obsessed anorexic people are with other's opinions of us.

I hope you will open your mind a little and not be such an arrogant, narrowminded twit in the future.

--- Rachel-UK

Go to the review in question




The letters on NPR made some good points. And so did your writer. But there was an intellectual snobbery that shone through his piece.

When I lived in the UK, BBC had the "Third Programme." Terribly erudite, obscure and effete. Very high culture in the insufferably English manner. It was, quite often, boring as hell. Hardly anyone listened and I understand it no longer exists.

In fact in the general BBC service, aside from the news which was always superior, the quality of shows was really rotten -- Workers' Playtime, Mrs. Dale's Diary, dance music from some ballroom somewhere.

Chaucer, Marvell and Pope are great. And Bach and Bellini are too. (Bellini is a great love of mine.) Jane Austen and Joyce. But these days they appeal to the very few. NPR is funded by the Congress from tax dollars from all the people. It has a responsibility to have programming that appeal to citizens of all tastes and education levels.

Many of the shows play to the eclectic tastes of a younger generation. Our tastes were formed fifty years ago in some very classy schools. Rock and roll, for better or worse, is now studied seriously -- as we studied Eliot and Pound. Movie criticism is now an important part of English department curricula. Movies are to the 20th century what novels were to the 19th. Young scholars are as serious about these things, as we were about, oh I don't know, the Renascence, English Victorian history, post Newtonian physics.

For better or worse our culture has changed Morning Edition has great influence. Serious people listen to it Click and Clack, the car boys are much fun when you are in the mood. (Both of them are mechanics with MIT degrees).

There is a three hour Early Music show on Monday nights. Nightly BBC news starting at midnight for two hours. Ira Flescher has a strange but intriguing, exceedingly low key show, about people. Opera on Saturday, Concerts in the evening. Old time radio -- Fibber McGee, Lum and Abner, Jack Benny -- once a week. Blue grass for several hours.

I think they have a pretty good smorgasbord of programs. We also have a KFQD station here in Washington which seems to be mostly Caribbean music and angry young people talking about the latest injustice with much passion but little knowledge. They do play some cool jazz, as does WHUR, a non profit NPR connected Howard University station. We also have a CSpan radio station which is my very favorite.

With the dumbing down of TV. The disappearance of news on the evening network news shows. The vast wasteland that is commercial radio The horror of most cable channels. With all this, thank God for NPR.


I read your thoughts about NPR in the Early Fall 2001 Folio of RALPH. I do agree with much of what you say about the stupid game shows featuring of obscure literary references. The question is, compared to what? Compared to what might have been, certainly NPR falls short.

Still, I wake up in the morning to WGBH in Boston playing a lovely Schubert sonata. I step into the shower, where there hangs from the soap dish a waterproof battery-powered radio that plays the Providence NPR outlet's edition of All Things Considered. I get national news far superior to the big media outlets, local news that is mercifully brief but essential, and no commercials. (If I have a hangover, I tune in to Imus or Howard Stern on the networks for filth, smut, and the underside of human existence. Most of the time, however, I leave the shower cleansed in body and spirit, returning to the bedroom for a Corelli concerto).

On a Sunday drive to Boston, I listen to NPR where Ira Gross presents a marvelous portrait of some obscure person whom I now want to know. I listen to a live broadcast of the Boston Symphony from Tanglewood. There is marvelous jazz every night on Eric in the Evening. And there are Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, the Brothers Malliozzi from Boston. You do not apprehend their show. It is not about cars. It is about the love and admiration of two brothers for the world, for their passion (cars), for themselves, and for each other. Nothing cheers me up like Ray Malliozzi laughing boisterously at one of his own stupid jokes.

Sure, they mention Exxon and Chase Bank and GM and all the other villains. But only for a few seconds. And Daniel Schorr is so left-wing in his commentary that he is a laughing stock, and there is no one from the right. No one.

So, I send them money for all this.


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