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Selected Shorts

Author: Symphony Space

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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.
26 Episodes
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Great Escapes

Great Escapes

2024-05-1601:00:322

Host Meg Wolitzer presents three works that contemplate a way out—of our lives, and even of this world.  In Joe Meno’s “Books You Read,” performed by Joan Allen, a young boy helps his jaded teacher to love reading again.  J. Robert Lennon takes us into deep space and a conversation between a computer and a survivor in “Escape Pod W41,” performed by Stephen Lang.  A composition created by Lakecia Benjamin in response to the story, and performed by Junie Mojica, is also featured.  And marriage, and a friendship, are tested in Jac Jemc’s “Infidelity,” performed by Kathleen Chalfont.  All three stories were commissioned for SELECTED SHORTS’ anthology Small Odysseys.
Host Meg Wolitzer presents three works from an evening with author and New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast, inspired by Chast’s new book I Must be Dreaming. “The Wife on Ambien,” by Ed Park, is a sort of late-night fever dream. It’s read by John Fugelsang. In Tessa Hadley’s “Bad Dreams,” images that begin in books envelop a family in real life. The reader is Rita Wolf. Tom Barbash’s “Stay Up With Me” charts the rocky path of an old love affair. It’s read by Jason Ralph. And throughout the episode, Chast describes her cartoons based on her own weird and hilarious dreams.
This story was read at a Selected Shorts show in L.A., hosted by the Getty Center, and co-produced with the Belletrist Book Club, the online reading community created by longtime friends and readers Emma Roberts and Karah Preiss.  Jones-Yelvington is an artist and drag performer who is also a prolific writer. They have written chapbooks, a memoir, a young adult novel and two collections of short fiction, Don't Make Me Do Something We'll Both Regret and This Is a Dance Movie! And the title story of their collection is all about movie cliches, how we might play with them, and the kinds of connection we hope we can achieve in telling our own stories.  Writer and actor Ryan O'Connell performs the story. His book I'm Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves was adapted into the Netflix series Special—in which he starred. His novel Just By Looking at Him came out in 2022, and he has appeared in recent series including the reboot of Queer as Folk.  Our episode was hosted by comedian Aparna Nancherla.
Wear and Tear

Wear and Tear

2024-05-0258:391

Host Meg Wolitzer presents three works that offer unusual perspectives on clothes and fashion—selling, making, and coveting. In Anne Enright’s “(She Owns) Everything,” read by Mary-Louise Parker, a saleswoman becomes a compulsive consumer. In “Clothes on the Ground: A Conversation with Leap,” we hear from a Cambodian garment worker, interviewed by Julia Wallace for the compendium Women in Clothes. Leap is voiced by Jennifer Lim. And shopping is an antidote to aging in Joanne Harris’s “Faith and Hope Go Shopping,” read by Lois Smith.
Nothing To Do With Love

Nothing To Do With Love

2024-04-2559:331

Host Meg Wolitzer presents two unconventional love stories, one classic, one contemporary, that avoid the usual tropes of “meet cute,” “opposites attract,” or “happily ever after” but are still engaging.  In “Love in the Slump,” by Evelyn Waugh, clueless upper-crust newlyweds are sent on a comic odyssey.  The reader is Jane Kaczmarek.  And Esther Yi’s “Moon” explores something we often mistake for love—obsession, as a young woman is drawn farther and farther into K-Pop fandom.The story was selected by guest editor Min Jin Lee for Best American Short Stories 2023.  It’s read by Hettienne Park.  And we hear Lee’s and Park’s thoughts about the story.
Guest host Jane Kaczmarek presents two stories from the Best American Short Stories 2021 anthology selected by guest editor Jesmyn Ward. Both involve adolescents facing displacement or rejection, but the stories are set in very different environments: One takes place in a surreal, Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, and one inside a junior high school in Tennessee.  First, Leo Solomon reads “Playing Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain,” by Jamil Jan Kochai.  Then we hear “Biology,” a beautiful story by Kevin Wilson, performed by Mike Doyle.  And Ward comments briefly on her approach to creating this year’s diverse anthology. 
Modest Expectations

Modest Expectations

2024-04-1101:01:112

Host Meg Wolitzer presents four stories in which characters shape their expectations and dreams to a manageable size in collaboration with Belletrist Book Club. So if you’re “Medusa,” as in our first story, by Tania James, you try to figure out how to live in the world instead of turning it to stone. The reader is Constance Zimmer. Parents in our second story, “We Only Wanted Their Happiness,” by Alexander Weinstein, make a tactical choice about technology. It’s performed by Randall Park. The narrator of Honor Levy’s “Good Boys,” read by Annie Hamilton, understands that infatuation is a phase. And a man and a woman sidestep romance in “Arrangements” by Charlie Watts, performed by Laura Harrier and Will Harrison. The show was recorded at the Getty Center in Los Angeles and features commentary by Emma Roberts and Karah Preiss of Belletrist Book Club. Since 2017, Belletrist Book Club has chosen more than 75 titles for the book club and dozens more for myriad content features across Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and the newsletter The Belletrist Brief. In 2019, Emma Roberts and Karah Priess spun out Belletrist Book Club into a production company called Belletrist Productions. https://www.belletrist.com/
Out of Sight

Out of Sight

2024-04-0401:02:572

HostMeg Wolitzer shares three stories about people who put things out of sight—and try to put them out of mind. In Lisa Ko’s “Nightlife,” read by Vanessa Kai, a pair of friends quietly sidestep feelings that might complicate their relationship. A teacher tries to help a parent see who her child really is in “The Hole” by Patrick Cottrell, performed by Becca Blackwell. And Elizabeth Strout brings us a beautiful and devastating story of a woman grappling with whether to put her mother into institutional care in “Home,” performed by Mia Dillon. Strout talks with Wolitzer after the reading. All three works were commissioned for the Selected Shorts’ anthology, Small Odysseys.
 Host Meg Wolitzer talks with author Elizabeth Strout about her story “Home” and the fictional family Strout has created.
Host Meg Wolitzer presents three stories about social occasions for introverts and extroverts alike, curated with the Belletrist Book Club, founded by actor Emma Roberts and producer Karah Preiss. The show was recorded at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. Humorist Samantha Irby asks “Please Invite Me to Your Party,” but does she mean it? The reader is Richa Moorjani. Victoria Lancelotta’s “The Anniversary Trip,” performed by Judy Greer, is, and is not, about the married couple making the trip. And Jen Spyra takes it to extremes to get to the altar in perfect shape in “The Bridal Body,” performed by Erinn Hayes.This is Selected Shorts' first collaboration with Belletrist. Since 2017, Belletrist has chosen over 75 books for the book club and dozens more for myriad content features across Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and a newsletter: The Belletrist Brief. In 2019, Emma and Karah spun out Belletrist Book Club into a production company called Belletrist Productions. https://www.belletrist.com
Embracing Change

Embracing Change

2024-03-2159:211

On this episode of Selected Shorts, host Meg Wolitzer presents three stories about change. A playful fantasy, a domestic dilemma, and a private struggle help us to adjust to the idea of transformation, losses, and gains.  In “Sea Monster,” by Seth Fried, performed by Natasha Rothwell, a husband and wife reveal their secret identities to each other.  In “Death by Printer,” by Mira Jacob, read by Rita Wolf, a widow learns to cope with loss—and technology.  And a mature woman embraces the self she is becoming in Maile Meloy’s “Period Piece,” performed by Kelli O’Hara.  The last two stories were commissioned for Selected Shorts’ anthology Small Odysseys. 
This story is by the writer Erin Somers. She has a novel, Stay Up with Hugo Best, and has been published in The Paris Review, The New Yorker and elsewhere.  Performing it, we've got two actors who found the funny with both the words and each other. The first, Paget Brewster, is best known for her role on Criminal Minds. Additionally, she has appeared on Friends, Community and Comedy Central’s Another Period.  Playing off her is Andy Richter, known for his years on Conan and Late Night with Conan O'Brien; but has also appeared in cult classics like Cabin Boy and done many voiceovers for animated movies like Madagascar.  The episode is hosted by Aparna Nancherla. The story was recorded at SketchFest in San Francisco. 
In this bonus conversation, host Meg Wolitzer talks to author Louise Erdrich about her story; her writing life; and what do with left over index cards. 
In this bonus conversation, host Meg Wolitzer talks to actor Denis O’Hare about his craft, and his approaches to readings of the two very different stories on this program.
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.
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 New Yorker humorist Patricia Marx about her story “Singin’ in the Acid Rain,” and writing funny. 
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 friend and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Strout about writing, short stories, and the use of recurring characters in her work.
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Comments (14)

Jessica Beedy

This is important.

Nov 29th
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Thomas Anderson

A fantastic hour of sheer art 👏👏👏

Oct 29th
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Lin

Fun stories this episode, wonderfully performed as usual. Love this podcast.

Oct 15th
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Prince Planet

so great

Sep 25th
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Prince Planet

"I love girl" one of my favorites thought I would never hear again. Hope Shorts reaches in the vault more often.

Aug 22nd
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monnie🤬

My god......one speaks fast.The second is so slow......oh people listen to this?..... And what was the purpose of telling us how much the 14 yr. old bleeds?

Jun 1st
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Anthony

I'm saddened to learn of René's passing. I remember first watching him on Benson. He had a tremendous talent.

Dec 25th
Reply (1)

Phyllis Miller

Everyone I know has heard me rave about podcast listening in general and Selected Shorts in particular. And I've made some converts, too. Many, many thanks for the great content of your selections and for the gifted actors who bring them to life. I love listening to them over and over and anticipate hearing the newest.

Sep 15th
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Chris B

I look forward to it every weekend.

Jun 2nd
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iTunes User

An hour of worthwhile short stories read by actors worthy of reading them. For a short-story enthusiast, this podcast isn't far from nirvana. Thank you, NPR. I look forward to more downloads like this one.

Aug 30th
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iTunes User

I have been chained to my radio at the socially crippling 8PM Saturday night for years because of this incomparable program. Finally, I can resocialize! Thank you!

Aug 30th
Reply (1)

iTunes User

I'm a dork---whatever, I love this program. Famous actors reading short stories by famous authors. The storytellers paint portraits with acrylic words penned by the writer. Like sitting in a comfortable chair listening to an eloquent and wise relative recount a tale of happiness, desire, loss of innocence, joy, tragedy and truth. Afterwards, you walk away feeling like you've somehow come to understand your own life and experiences a little better and now you are at peace with yourself. Bring more episodes to podcast...please. We need them!

Aug 30th
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