Our greatest actors transport us through the magic of fiction, one short story at a time. Sometimes funny. Always moving. Selected Shorts connects you to the world with a rich diversity of voices from literature, film, theater, and comedy. New episodes every Thursday, from Symphony Space.
Host Meg Wolitzer presents two works with unusual family dynamics. In Zadie Smith’s “Grand Union,” the mother-daughter bond transcends death and brings with it a whole family history. The reader is Kaneza Schaal. And Richard Bausch’s “What Feels Like the World,” read by James Naughton, explores the bond between a grandparent and a grandchild.
Host Meg Wolitzer presents stories so compelling that they were adapted for the screen. Selected Shorts and the prestigious Tribeca Festival collaborated and came up with three works that crossed the boundaries between fiction and film. An eerie game has unexpected consequences in Richard Matheson’s “Button, Button,” performed by Marin Ireland. The story inspired the horror film “The Box” starring Cameron Diaz and Frank Langella. Michael Stuhlbarg gives a rousing performance of Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky;” and Andrea Martin reads the story that inspired the Hollywood classic All About Eve—Mary Orr’s “The Wisdom of Eve.”
Host Meg Wolitzer presents two humorous stories about marriages not made in heaven. In James Thurber’s classic “The Breaking Up of the Winships,” a long-married couple fall out over Donald Duck. The reader is Kristine Nielsen. And in Louise Erdrich’s “The Big Cat,” read by Keir Dullea, two powerful wives, a bemused husband, and a symphony of bone-jarring snores. The program also features an interview with Erdrich.
Host Meg Wolitzer presents three stories in which reality contrasts with the dreams, perceptions, and actions of the characters. In “The Leap,” by Louise Erdrich, a mother’s unusual skill set changes the outcome of events. The reader is Elizabeth Reaser. In “Death and the Lady,” by Ben Loory, even the Grim Reaper harbors illusions. And his parents’ damaged marriage haunts an adult child in Delmore Schwartz’s “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities.” Both the Loory and the Schwartz are read by multi-talented actor Denis O’Hare, and Wolitzer talks to him about his craft.
Host Meg Wolitzer presents three pieces about marriages that outlive the romance. In Etgar Keret’s “A World without Selfie Sticks,” performed by Tate Donovan, a man meets the woman of his dreams; but she’s from an alternate universe. “On the Honeymoon,” by Javier Marias, a husband has a strange encounter with a woman in the street. It’s read by Ivan Hernandez. And in Duncan Birmingham’s “The Cult In My Garage,” performed by Michaela Watkins, an old college buddy turns up, and he’s got a mission.
Host Meg Wolitzer presents two stories about complex characters and the many different roles they play in each other’s lives and in the world around us. Cherline Bazile’s “Tender,” which guest editor Min Jin Lee included in Best American Short Stories 2023, reflects the contradictory nature of friendship. It’s read by Anna Uzele. The show features Min Jin Lee’s on-stage remarks about the story and contemporary fiction. Our second story, Grace Paley’s “The Contest,” reflects the contradictory nature of courtship, as the bewildered narrator is alternatively flattered and bullied by a girl with way more on the ball than he has. He tells us so himself, in the voice of actor Justin Bartha.
Host Meg Wolitzer presents a celebration of the great Ray Bradbury, master of science fiction and fantasy. Author Neil Gaiman, who hosted a live event at Symphony Space dedicated to Bradbury, elaborates on the program’s stories that demonstrate Bradbury’s imagination and humanism. In “There Will Come Soft Rains,” a smart home is all that’s left in the wake of devastation—and it can’t stop working. The reader is Yetide Badaki. Javier Munoz performs “The Fog Horn,” which presents a creature of the deep as an object of both fear and sympathy. And in “Embroidery,” a simple craft turns out to have unexpected power. It’s read by Kirsten Vangsness.
Host Meg Wolitzer presents two stories about the course of true love, from two very different perspectives. Sigrid Nunez explores a roller-coaster romance in a small town in “This Is It,” performed by Christina Pickles, and Simon Rich offers up Stone-Age love and humor in a small cave in “I Love Girl.” It’s performed by Michael Ian Black, who also chats with Wolitzer about what he’s been reading and the tricky business of being funny.
"Cookie Monster Shares" was performed by actor and comedian Baron Vaughn at SketchFest in San Francisco, CA. The story was written by James Hannaham, the PEN/Faulkner Award-winning author of sharp satires including Delicious Foods and Didn't Nobody Give a Shit What Happened to Carlotta. (Which, an objectively great title that really paints a picture.) Hannaham's sharp satires take no prisoners—even in the seemingly innocuous context of a story narrated by the one and only Cookie Monster. Episode host Aparna Nancherla talks to the author after the story. Too Hot For Radio is a bonus podcast from Selected Shorts featuring saucy and salacious tales that can't air on public radio.
Jen Spyra has worked in nearly every kind of comedy there is: penning stories for The Onion, writing skits and one-liners as a staff writer for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, contributing pieces to The New Yorker and McSweeney's, and taking the stage for improv at UCB Theatre in Manhattan. Her story comes from her first short story collection, Big Time. It's performed by Mary Lynn Rajskub. She's someone with so many fun credits it's hard to pick: 24, Mr. Show, Punch Drunk Love and, who could forget, her break-out role as the voice of the Female Radio Caller from The Truth About Cats and Dogs? She read this story at Sketchfest in San Francisco. This episode includes a conversation with host Aparna Nancherla and Jen Spyra.
In this bonus conversation, writers Margaret Atwood and A.M. Homes discuss everything from feminism, time, writing and dystopian fiction, to Atwood’s new short story collection “Old Babes in the Wood.” The interview was recorded in front of a live audience at Symphony Space.
In this bonus conversation, host and best-selling author, Meg Wolitzer, talks to host of WNYC’s All of It, Alison Stewart. Wolitzer reveals some of the secrets to great writing and the two share their own reading habits and thoughts about the importance of fiction.
In this bonus conversation, host Meg Wolitzer talks to friend and Booker Prize-winning author George Saunders about crafting short stories, where ideas come from, and how his work has evolved over the years.
In this bonus conversation, host Meg Wolitzer talks to comedian and writer Michael Ian Black about what he’s been reading and the tricky business of being funny. Join and give!: https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/symphonyspacenyc?code=Splashpage
In this bonus conversation, host Meg Wolitzer talks to journalist, activist and feminist writer Mona Eltahawy about her life, literature and what it means to be a "dangerous woman."Join and give!: https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/symphonyspacenyc?code=Splashpage
A bonus interview between our host and best-selling author, Meg Wolitzer, and the host of WNYC’s All of It, Alison Stewart. Wolitzer reveals some of the secrets to great writing and the two women share their own reading habits and thoughts about the importance of fiction.
Join and give!: https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/symphonyspacenyc?code=Splashpage