Guest host Maulik Pancholy presents stories, essays, and poems, and speeches celebrating America’s diversity and wealth of stories, at a time when we need to know we are together, even when we are apart. An aging father ponders his life in Elizabeth Strout’s “The Walk,” read by Ellen Burstyn. The whole country’s talking in Susan Minot’s “Listen,” read by Jennifer Ikeda and Khris Lewin. Julia Alvarez faces prejudice and finds her voice in “Speak! Speak!” read by Selenis Leyva, and Henry Louis Gates introduces works by 19th-century African-American women writers.
Guest host Jane Kaczmarek presents two stories based on fairy tales. We need good stories more than ever now. Traditional fairy tales always have a lesson, and these new versions are guaranteed to offer up some pearls about staying strong in difficult times.
First, a story about an unconventional princess. Jane Kaczmarek performs Jeanne Desy’s “The Princess Who Stood On Her Own 2 Feet.”
And Brazilian feminist writer Clarice Lispector shares a wealthy woman’s moment of truth in “Beauty and the Beast or The Enormous Wound,” performed by Kate Burton.
In this time of sheltering, we think one of the things that’s magical about short stories is that they bring the world to you. On this program, guest host Michael Cerveris presents two stories about the difference between what other people observe about us, and who we actually are. Even though we’re all mostly “home alone” right now, these pieces remind us that when we are out in the world, our inner and outer selves can be very different.
Cerveris reads “Riding the Doghouse,” a great coming-of-age story about a young boy and his trucker dad, by Randy DeVita, and the superb Kathleen Chalfant brings to life Carol Shields’ “Mrs. Turner Cutting the Grass.” Mrs. Turner is a suburban widow with sloppy gardening skills—and cellulite—but she has an interesting past.
Goodness knows we could all use a laugh right now. So this week we’re offering a Selected Shorts program full of funny stories selected by Andy Borowitz, who’s funny in so many ways. The late columnist Molly Ivins sticks it to pompous politicians in “Tough as Bob War and Other Stuff,” performed by Judith Ivey. Essayist Sloane Crosley reveals a shameful habit in “The Pony Problem,” performed by Kirsten Vangsness. Parker Posey delivers a classic Dorothy Parker rant (two Parkers, no waiting) about a lousy dance partner, and Selected Shorts’ late host and founder Isaiah Sheffer speaks truth to toddlers in Ian Frazier’s “Lamentations of the Father.”
We're rebroadcasting one of our earlier episodes in honor of the long-awaited publication of The Mirror & the Light, author Hilary Mantel's final chapter of the trilogy she began with her peerless, Booker Prize-winning novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. We found this story in her often wicked short story collection The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher. “The Long QT” features a standard, modern-day dilemma that delivers an entirely unexpected sort of fright at the end. Host Aparna Nancherla chats with champion open water swimmer, Lynne Cox, a real life survivor of the disorder Mantel's story is based upon. Read by actress Joanne Whalley.
In honor of the human impulse to seek culinary comfort when times are tough, guest host Robert Sean Leonard presents two food-centered stories curated with the online food and cooking community Food52. In J. Robert Lennon’s “Breadman,” artisanal bread threatens a marriage. Kyle MacLachlan is the incredulous spouse. And Joan Allen performs an excerpt from Nora Ephron’s novel Heartburn, a slice of infidelity in which there are consequences—and pie.
The stories on this program, hosted by Jane Kaczmarek, start out in one place and end up somewhere completely different. Which pretty much describes our world at the moment. The three authors also talk about how people connect—something that seems important right now. Colin Nissan’s “Wedding Announcement” escalates comically in the reading by John Cameron Mitchell. A wary housewife is surprised by beauty in Michel Faber’s “The Eyes of the Soul,’ performed by Kirsten Vangsness, and teenage lovers grow up quickly in James Lasdun’s “Lime Pickle” performed by David Schwimmer. (The pickle is really not—do not try this at home!)
Guest host Jane Curtin presents three quirky stories in which a drop or two is taken: Michael Gerber's and Jonathan Schwarz's "What We Talk About When We Talk About Doughnuts" is a riff on a famous Raymond Carver tale; it's performed by Joey Slotnick. Early New Yorker humorist Corey Ford tells us just what can go wrong at "The Office Party," performed by Jordan Klepper. And wry tale of boozy suburbia, "The Sorrows of Gin," is performed by Kathleen Chalfant.
Guest host Jane Kaczmarek presents April Fools’ tales guaranteed to transport listeners away from the madness. In these three stories, characters search for ways to escape their everyday: An office romance stings in Ryan Boudinot’s “Bee Beard,” read by Tony Hale. A man finds an ingenious way to slip out of his own life in Susan Sontag’s “The Dummy,” read by Justin Kirk. And Miranda July imagines a senior citizens’ “Swim Team,” in a story read by Parker Posey. Unexpected, funny and a little absurd, these shorts should help anyone craving the usual release of April Fool’s Day festivities.
On this episode of Too Hot, we're rereleasing Joe Meno's story, "Everything Strange and Unknown," because, well, right now everything is strange and unknown. What better time to lose yourself in a great story. Hopefully, listening to Michael Ian Black read this lovely, poignant, and humorous piece, you gain some time to escape.
Guest host Michael Cerveris presents stories that celebrate the distinguished O.Henry Awards. Three prize-winning stories are featured: In “Midrash on Happiness,” by Grace Paley, a woman wants it all. The reader is Mia Dillon. And a woman who’s lost it all must get an exit visa in “The American Embassy,” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, read by Karen Pittman. A son is puzzled by his father’s strange habit in Jerome Weidman’s “My Father Sits in the Dark,” read by Josh Hamilton.
As the rollup to the Presidential elections continues, we offer two stories about big shots, presented by guest host Jane Curtin. First, classic humorist James Thurber imagines what happens when an aviation hero has feet of clay. “The Greatest Man in the World” is read by Michael Ian Black. And former President Bill Clinton makes a cameo appearance in Meera Nair’s warmly funny tale of a village in Bangladesh about to be rescued from “centuries of obscurity.” “A Warm Welcome to the President, Insh'Allah!” is performed by Aasif Mandvi. Author Meera Nair tells us about the origins of the piece, and her writing process, at the end of the story.
Guest host LeVar Burton presents three stories in which fantasies and memories are both near and far. In “The Elevator Dancer,” by N.K. Jemisin, a guard is obsessed by a woman who spins when no one is looking. Laura Gomez is the reader. A woman remembers a transforming moment in her Depression-era childhood in “Marigolds,” by Eugenia W. Collier. The story is performed by Sharon Washington. Ursula K. Le Guin moves and surprises us in “The Wife’s Story,” performed by Joanna Gleason.
Guest host Denis O’Hare presents three stories that take things to extremes. In Simon Rich’s “Distractions,” we learn about a global conspiracy. Errin Hayes reads. The misanthrope in Douglas Lawson’s “Love in a Kitchen Garden” is cruel to his garden gnomes. Richard Kind reads. And Maulik Pancholy performs Emily Buckler’s “Brand Values,” a reality-bending tale about high-end leather.
Guest host Cynthia Nixon presents stories by two masters of the form who share an outré sensibility. Humor, humanity, and fantasy all combine in four tales of things gone wrong.
In “Fly Already” by Etgar Keret, performed by Liev Schreiber, a widower and his small son watch a drama unfold. In “Where Are You?” by Joyce Carol Oates, performed by Dianna Agron, a demanding husband pushes his wife to the limit. In
“One Gram Short” by Etgar Keret, performed by Ira Glass, a stoner makes a really bad deal; and Oates introduces an unlikely “Assassin,” in a story that combines tongue-in-cheek horror and political satire. Becky Ann Baker is the reader.
From the New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Ruins, our story today comes from the first collection of short fiction from Jess Walter. We Live In Water is a suite of diverse and searching stories about personal struggle and diminished dreams, all of them marked by the wry wit, keen eye, and generosity of spirit that has made him a bookseller and reader favorite, including Barack Obama who called “We Live in Water: Stories” one of his favorite books of 2019.
A former National Book Award finalist and winner of the Edgar Allan Poe Award, Jess Walter is the author of six novels, one book of short stories and one nonfiction book. His work has been translated into 32 languages, and his fiction has been selected three times forBest American Short Stories as well as the Pushcart Prize and Best American Nonrequired Reading. His stories, essays and journalism have appeared in, Harper's, Esquire, Playboy, McSweeney's, Tin House, Ploughshares, the New York Times, the Washington Post and many others.
Our reader, Josh Malina, is well-known for playing Will Bailey on the NBC drama The West Wing, Jeremy Goodwin on Sports Night, David Rosen on Scandal, and President Siebert on The Big Bang Theory.
This episode is hosted by comedian, author, and actor, Michael Ian Black and features a very funny conversation between Black and the author after the story.
Guest host Hope Davis presents two stories about imagined worlds. In “The Dreamlife of Toasters,” by Heather O’Neill, an android falls in love, and there are consequences. The reader is Yvette Nicole Brown. In Stefan Zweig’s “The Invisible Collection,” a blind man is able to “see” priceless drawings. The story is performed by René Auberjonois.
Guest host Jane Curtin presents three stories in which small things count for a lot. A discarded sock reminds one woman of her ex-husband in “The Sock” by Lydia Davis, read by Kaneza Schaal. Sisters find a chess set at a department store in Meg Wolitzer’s “Deep Lie the Woods,” read by Blythe Danner. And old-time jazz musicians and their funny clothes, food, and drink charm a young drummer in “Nightblooming,” by Kenneth Calhoun, read by Josh Charles.
Guest host Michael Cerveris presents two stories in which a lot happens, but subtly. The narrator of A.M. Homes’ “Yours Truly” is “hiding in the linen closet” on a journey of self-discovery. The reader is Beth Malone. In Weike Wang’s “Omakase” a couple’s special sushi dinner proves unexpectedly revealing. The reader is Jennifer Lim.
Guest host Cynthia Nixon presents stories about the family dynamics between children and parents. It's never too early to defy gender norms, as Ivan E. Coyote confides in "No Bikini," read by Becca Blackwell. A woman confronts her mother's aging, and her own childlessness, in Kathryn Chetkovich's tender story "The World with My Mother Still In It," read by Phillipa Soo. And three generations are "At the Zoo," in a story by Caitlin Horrocks: a rowdy grandpa, a sensitive child, and a mother caught between the two. The reader is Kate Walsh.
In her twenties Ottessa Moshfegh co-owned a bar in Wuhan, China. She’s lived next to crack addicts and been bedridden for an entire year with cat scratch fever. She is a Stegner fellow, attended Brown’s MFA program, and in the past four years has won many, many awards including a Pushcart, an O. Henry, and the Paris Review’s Plimpton Prize. Eileen, her first novel, was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Man Booker Prize, and won the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction. My Year of Rest and Relaxation, her second novel, was a New York Times bestseller. Her story on this episode, "The Weirdos," is read by Colby Minifie, known for her TV roles in Fear of the Walking Dead and Jessica Jones, among others, as well as her many roles on Broadway including Long Days Journey Into Night and Six Degrees of Separation.
This episode is hosted by comedian Michael Ian Black who talks to Ottessa about her work including how much of the plot is autobiographical, and her life after the story.
Guest host Kirsten Vangsness presents stories about the different shapes that loves takes. They show how “exquisitely OK it is to be ourselves,” she comments. In “Love and Hydrogen” Jim Shepard conjures up the breathtaking magic of travel by airship in his tale of doomed lovers aboard the Hindenberg. The story is performed by Sam Underwood. In Carys Davies’ “The Coat” a woman is surprised by her own feelings when she comforts a distressed neighbor. The performer is Becca Blackwell.
Guest host David Strathairn introduces two tales by master of mystery Agatha Christie, with special comments by crime novelist Megan Abbott and Christie fan Fran Lebowitz. Lois Smith performs “Miss Marple Tells a Story,” in which Christie’s spinster sleuth boasts a little, and Hugh Dancy reads “Accident,” about a woman with a dark past come to light.
Guest host Cynthia Nixon presents three revealing first person accounts taking us from a crowded bus, to a suburban motel, to a Russian estate: “Hello?” by Dmitry Biriukov, performed by Mike Doyle; “How to Tie-Dye,” by Jenny Allen, performed by Jane Curtin; and “From the Diary of a Hot-Tempered Man,” by Anton Chekhov and translated by Peter Constantine, performed by Sam Underwood
Guest host Cynthia Nixon presents three works about losing control. In Dmitry Biriukov’s “Hello?” a crowded city bus inspires one passenger to create a romantic scenario. The reader is Mike Doyle. Jenny Allen offers up a disastrous crafts project in “How to Tie-Dye,” reader by Jane Curtin. And Anton Chekhov gives us a clueless young man beset by determined women in “From the Diary of a Hot-Tempered Man,” read by Sam Underwood.
Guest host Kate Burton presents four unusual love stories. David Galef imagines “My Date with Neanderthal Woman,” read by Giullian Yao Gioiello. It’s raining old boyfriends and ex-husbands—literally—in Marie-Helene Bertino’s “Edna in Rain,” read by Colby Minifie. An extra-marital affair becomes a comedy of errors in Sam Ruddick’s “Leak,” read by “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me” host Peter Sagal. And Kathleen Turner performs Isabel Allende’s magical “The Little Heidelberg.”
Simon Rich has written for SNL, created the series Miracle Workers and Man Seeking Woman, and is beloved by people who actually read The New Yorker and don't just recycle it after seeing they didn't win the caption contest. Rich also has several story collections and this will be his second story featured on Too Hot.
Neil Patrick Harris is the actor who read this during a Sketchfest show in San Francisco. Harris does musicals, TV, high-profile hosting gigs, you name it. Listeners may know him as Barney on How I Met Your Mother, or as Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events.
After the reading, stay tuned for a great interview between host Aparna Nancherla and The New Yorker editor Susan Morrison who spills some secrets about what makes the perfect funny story for the iconic magazine.
Guest host Josh Radnor presents two stories about marriage and its challenges. In Helen Phillips’ “The Knowers,” a wife wants the answer to an ultimate question, but her husband does not. It’s performed by Stockard Channing. The “Three Little Maids” of Alix Ohlin’s story are a middle-aged man’s ex-wife, current wife, and daughter. The story is performed by Mia Dillon.
We want Christmas to be merry and bright, but sometimes the season can be challenging. Our two stories, presented by guest host Cynthia Nixon, do deliver good cheer in the end (and Nixon shares a few of her own holiday traditions). In Laurie Notaro’s “O Holy Night, or The Year I Ruined Christmas” there’s a hideous Christmas tree, and a demanding parent with a long memory. The hilarious tale is read by Kirsten Vangsness. In Jeanette Winterson’s luminous “Spirit of Christmas” a married couple set off for their holiday with frayed tempers and too much stuff. They wind up with nothing but a miracle. Christina Pickles is the reader.
On December 8, 2019 actor René Auberjonois passed away. He'll be fondly remembered and sorely missed by all of us at Selected Shorts. He was a VIP reader, one of those amazing actors who could bring any story to life, keeping audiences totally entranced. We never aired or released René reading this Philip K. Dick story. It was a little too long to put on the radio, but we want to share now. Please enjoy.
Guest host Hope Davis presents three works by the Southern master Carson McCullers. In “Correspondence” a self-important young woman is disappointed in her choice of pen-pal. Emily Skeggs is the reader. McCullers draws on her own childhood in “The Discovery of Christmas,” read by Amanda Quaid. And “Sucker” explores the troubled and complicated relationship between two teen boys. Michael Cerveris performs.
Guest host Josh Radnor presents two stories that are favorites of novelist and screenwriter Richard Price ("Lush Life," "The Wire") and Colson Whitehead remembers his personal New York. Maggie Gyllenhaal reads Isaac Babel’s tale of local crime and politics, “The King,” and Rita Wolf reads Lucia Berlin’s odd love triangle, “The Love Affair.” Whitehead’s “Lost and Found” is read by Alec Baldwin.