Selected Shorts: Happy Families?

Family is our focus on this edition of SELECTED SHORTS.   One story, Peter Taylor’s “Porte Cochere,” is about an angry father, and his children and his house, and one story, Alice McDermott’s “Enough,” portrays a mother seeking to get the most out of life.

Peter Taylor’s “Porte Cochere,” was first published in The New Yorker in 1949, and this tale of an obdurate Tennessee father and his children still packs an emotional wallop.  As reader Leonard Nimoy commented, “this is a strong one.”   A “porte cochere” is a structure built onto the entrance of a building where vehicles stop and pass through. In this tale of an aging patriarch going anything but gentle into that good night, SHORTS Hannah Tinti literary commentator Hannah Tinti likens the image to Emily Dickinson’s famous poem “Death”:

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

Leonard Nimoy’s moving reading brings to difficult life the emotional bafflement of a man abused in childhood who resents the very security he has created for his children.

In contrast, Alice McDermott’s luscious “Enough,” is all about embracing the pleasures of life.  Tinti comments:  “I love this story.  Especially coming from a Catholic background, the idea McDermott begins with—about a “good soaking” of dishes and also the soul—to make them clean and Godly, is something I’m very familiar with.  But McDermott turns this concept in a new direction, telling us that to live a good life, a full life, you also need to soak in life’s pleasures—love, sex—and especially (in this tale) ice cream!

Giving “Enough” its full due is Fionnula Flanagan, channeling, no doubt, her celebrated annual reading (for Symphony Space’s BLOOMSDAY event) the soliloquy  20th-century literature’s most celebrated sensualist—Molly Bloom.

The musical interludes are from “Deep Listening,” created and performed by Pauline Oliveros, Stuart Dempster, and Panaoitis.   The SELECTED SHORTS theme is Roger Kellaway’s “Come to the Meadow.”

For additional works featured on SELECTED SHORTS, please visit

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Announcing the 2011 Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Prize.  This year's theme is stories set in restaurants and bars.  The judge is the author Jennifer Egan and the deadline is March 1, 2011.