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Selected Shorts


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.


New York, NY





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.




Selected Shorts c/o Symphony Space 2537 Broadway New York, NY 10025-6990 212-864-5400


Generation Gap

Host Meg Wolitzer presents three stories that cross generations. In Justin Torres’s “Trash Kites,” performed by Colman Domingo, teens find beauty in scarcity. A daughter’s aging parent links her past and present in “The World with My Mother Still in It” by Kathryn Chetkovich, performed by Phillipa Soo. And a tutor tries to create a bond with her privileged student in “Ancient Rome” by Kyle McCarthy, performed by Tavi Gevinson.



On this SELECTED SHORTS, host Meg Wolitzer presents three stories about moving out of familiar territory into new spaces and new understanding. In Meron Hadero’s “The Thief’s Tale,” read by Teagle F. Bougere, an émigré can’t leave some of his old ways behind. “The Tallest Doll in New York City,” by Maria Dahvana Headley, imagines what happens when two iconic skyscrapers fall in love. It’s read by Becca Blackwell. And summer trip yields unexpected treasures in Anne Tyler’s “The Feather Behind the Rock,” read by Jane Curtin.


Too Hot For Radio: Samanta Schweblin "An Unlucky Man"

Much of Samantha Schweblin's writing has a kind of dangerous element to it, and that's in this story, too. It's kind of a nailbiter, but not for the usual reasons. This story was written for McSweeney's and was performed as part of Selected Shorts' celebration of the 25th anniversary of this mighty indie publisher. Performed by Carmen Lynch, a comic who has performed stand-up on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and has appeared on series including Inside Amy Schumer and Life & Beth. And she has just the right touch with the story. After her reading, she talks to host Aparna Nancherla about how she approached such a tricky story.


Make a Meal of It

Guest host Roxane Gay (no mean cook herself) presents three stories centered on food. In “Three Great Meals” the late New Yorker humor writer Donald Barthelme tells you how to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner from a terrifying medley of fast food and low-end canned goods. The story is read by Nate Corddry. In "Simple Recipes," author Madeleine Thien weaves together evocative memories of traditional meals prepared by her father, with more complex images of a family in conflict. The reader is Cindy Cheung. And finally, a Roald Dahl classic, “Lamb to the Slaughter.” This tale of a model housewife’s response to a marital crisis will make you view your Sunday roast in a whole new light. She’s embodied by Catherine O'Hara.


Perfectly Unmatched

Host Meg Wolitzer presents perfect mismatches. In “The Man and the Moose” by Ben Loory, performed by Michael Cerveris, a man’s best bud has antlers. In “Red Dirt Don't Wash” by Roger Mais, performed by Brandon J. Dirden, a young man’s courtship is at risk—she doesn’t like his shoes. And a piano lesson is out of tune in “The Piano Teacher’s Pupil” by William Trevor, performed by Kathryn Erbe. Authors Elizabeth Strout and Marlon James present commentary from the stage at Symphony Space.


Small Odysseys

Host Meg Wolitzer presents two stories from our anthology, Small Odysseys, which features 35 commissioned stories from some of the series’ favorite writers. This week, parents try to help with their daughter’s unusual school science research project. Michael Shannon reads Susan Perabo’s “The Project.” And in Luis Alberto Urrea’s “King of Bread,” a father carves out his own little kingdom in the barrios of San Diego—handing out doughnuts, and hope. The reader is Javier Muñoz.


The Way I See It

On this Selected Shorts, host Meg Wolitzer offers up stories about limited viewpoints and larger visions. In “You Can Find Love Now" by Ramona Ausubel, performed by Amy Ryan and Martin Short, an unusual character drops into the dating pool; in “The Weave,” by Charles Johnson, performed by Arnell Powell, a heist gets hairy; and in J. Robert Lennon’s “Blue Light, Red Light,” a child's fears find his family seeking tech support. It’s performed by Fred Hechinger.


Mothers Know Best

Host Meg Wolitzer presents two stories featuring mothers and children, and entertains a special guest—her own mother, Hilma Wolitzer. In Annette Sanford’s “Trip in a Summer Dress,” a young woman is setting out to get married, but leaving her real life—and a hard choice—behind. The reader is Mia Dillon. “Palaver,” by Bryan Washington, offers a playful—but also serious—battle of wits between a strong-willed mother and her grown son, each wanting to know more about the other without giving away too much of themselves. The alternating narratives are performed by Petronia Paley and Michael Potts. And host Wolitzer quizzes her own mother about her writing life, the impact of feminism, and raising a novelist to be.


Tangled Lives

Host Meg Wolitzer presents three stories about tangled lives; those situations; those people that pull you in and won’t let you go. These works focus on encounters that affect a character's life in some unusual or enduring way. “Missed Connection—M4W,” by Raphael Bob-Waksberg, takes the idea of “chance encounter” to its limits. It’s performed by Richard Kind. “My Years of Living Dangerously,” by Danielle Henderson, explores the idea of sin and redemption. It’s performed by Karen Pittman. And in Melissa’ Banks’ ruefully comic “Run Run Run Run Run Run Run Away,” performed by Julianna Margulies, one sibling makes a bad choice the other has to live with. Both Julianna Margulies and Karen Pittman talk about their readings backstage at the live show, which was hosted and curated by Meg Wolitzer.


Behind Her Eyes

Host Meg Wolitzer presents three stories about social masks and what might lie beneath. Truman Capote’s “A Lamp in a Window” introduces an eccentric character with a secret. It’s performed by Arian Moayed. In Molly Giles’ “What Do You Say?” a mother and daughter lunch at a diner, where the mother encounters a bit of her past. The reader is Parker Posey. And novelist Zadie Smith channels the legendary singer Billie Holiday in “Crazy They Call Me,” performed by Karen Pittman.


Mcsweeney’s 25th Anniversary Extravaganza

Host Meg Wolitzer presents a celebration of the 25th anniversary of powerhouse indie publisher McSweeney’s, known for clever, funny, playful, weird, and literary writing. Ophira Eisenberg reads “Poor Little Egg-Boy Hatched in a Shul," by Nathan Englander. Andy Richter performs “Crumb Cake,” by Etgar Keret. And B.D. Wong reads “Stay Brave, My Hercules,” by Ernie Wang. Singer and songwriter Stephin Merritt, who’s recognizable as the mastermind behind The Magnetic Fields, also performed live onstage at Symphony Space as part of the tribute to McSweeney’s.


Didn’t See It Coming

Meg Wolitzer presents two stories with surprises the characters didn’t anticipate. A smart Mom defies expectations in “Agouti,” by Brenda Williams, performed by Laurine Towler. And a smart house has unexpected features in a classic by sci-fi master Ray Bradbury. Stephen Colbert reads “The Veldt.”


Punching In

Meg Wolitzer hands off to guest host Maulik Pancholy, who presents three stories about workers and the workplace—and "the daily grind." In a John Cheever classic, “Bayonne,” a busy waitress defends her territory. The reader is Mary Kay Place. The always succinct Lydia Davis gives us “Alvin the Typesetter,” in which a bohemian artist battles job conformity. The late David Rakoff performs. And in “OBF, Inc." by Bernice L. McFadden, an interviewee at a hip start-up learns about a secret organization that sells cultural capital. It’s performed by Teagle F. Bougere.


#42 Reading Between the Lines

Meg Wolitzer presents two stories about the things she loves most: books and words and why they matter. In Ben Loory’s “The Book,” a contrarian volume becomes a literary sensation, and alters one woman’s life. The reader is Jane Kaczmarek. In “Things I Know to be True,” by Kendra Fortmeyer, originally published in One Story,” a damaged veteran uses words to hold his life together. The reader is Calvin Leon Smith. And in a special feature, Wolitzer visits a favorite indie bookstore, Three Lives & Company.


Bonus: Meg Wolitzer Visits Her Favorite Indie Bookstore

Host Meg Wolitzer visits a favorite indie bookstore, Three Lives & Company in Greenwich Village, remembers her early years there as a writer and reader, and is let in on some trade secrets.


Sleight of Hand

Meg Wolitzer presents three stories with a little bit of trickery. The British writer Penelope Lively offers up a tricky combination of love and real estate in “The Third Wife,” performed by real-life husband and wife Patricia Kalember and Daniel Gerroll. The only “trick” in our next story, “Tempo,” by R.O. Kwon, is the trick the mind plays when it wishes the present would restore a lost bit of the past. The reader is Hettienne Park. And Dave Eggers’ “The Alaska of Giants and Gods” includes a real magic act, but also the longing for some other kind of magic, misplaced on a rocky road, to be restored. Kate Burton reads the literally laugh-out-loud story.


Margaret Atwood: Future Imperfect

Host Meg Wolitzer presents stories by the incomparable Margaret Atwood, drawn from our archives and a live performance evening hosted by the author. “There Was Once” is a brief satire about the art of writing and the importance of free speech. It’s performed by René Auberjonois, Zach Grenier, and Jane Kaczmarek. “Widows,” performed by Ellen Burstyn, is a delicate and ironic tale in which a recently widowed woman becomes accustomed to her new role. And Atwood is in full dystopian throttle in “Freeforall” where reproductive rights have become a matter of life and death. The reader is Becky Ann Baker. Both “Widows” and “Freeforall” have been published in Atwood’s new collection Old Babes in the Wood: Stories. Portions of Atwood’s onstage talk with fellow writer A.M. Homes are also featured.


Bonus: Margaret Atwood and A.M. Homes

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.


All of It with Alison Stewart

Host Meg Wolitzer partnered with WNYC’s Alison Stewart on this program featuring tales of love and haunting by new and established writers who have been featured on her show All of It. In Hilary Leichter’s “Doggy-Dog World,” family life takes an unexpected turn. It’s read by Sarah Mezzanotte. Is “Horror Story” a series of hauntings, or is it the form that love takes when it’s not working? Carmen Maria Machado’s story is read by Molly Bernard. And the masterful Louise Erdrich gives us an old story—falling in love with your teacher—in a new guise; she happens to be a nun. Cynthia Nixon is the reader of “Sister Godzilla.”


Bonus: Meg Wolitzer Talks to Alison Stewart

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.