Selected Shorts: Please Don't Explain

“Just a Little One,” by Dorothy Parker, read by Dana Ivey “The Spray,” by Jonathan Lethem, read by Robert Sean Leonard “The Swim Team,” by Miranda July, read by Parker Posey “Jesus Shaves,” by David

« previous episode | next episode »

Sunday, March 06, 2011

David Sedaris learns French, and three other tales involving elaborate explanations that only make things worse.

This edition of SELECTED SHORTS offers four stories in which elaborate explanations make things worse.   We start with a piece by Dorothy Parker, the doyenne of the Algonquin Round Table of New York literary wits, and writer for Vogue, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker. In Parker’s “Just a Little One,” a friendly drink turns into an hilarious nightmare of recrimination.   It is read by the award-winning Broadway actress who most perfectly embodies Parker’s the saucy wit, the inestimable Dana Ivey.

The author of our next story, Jonathan Lethem, wrote the novels Chronic City, The Fortress of Solitude, and Motherless Brooklyn, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. He brings to “The Spray,” in which a husband and wife find out more about each other than they bargained for, the same antic imagination and sardonic sense of humor that characterize his novels.

The reader is Robert Sean Leonard, a Tony Award-winning actor (“The Invention of Love”) now best known for his work on the television series “House.”

This program’s third reader is Parker Posey, an actress celebrated for her roles in Christopher Guest’s “Waiting for Guffman,” “A Mighty Wind,” and “Best in Show,” among many other independent films.  Appropriately enough, her assignment was to read a work by the film maker, writer, and performing artist, Miranda July.  Miranda July’s story collection, No One Belongs Here More Than You, won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, and her first feature-length film “Me and You and Everyone We Know,” won a special jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival and four prizes at the Cannes Film Festival, including the Camera d’ Or. In her bittersweet story “The Swim Team,” a lonely woman creates an unusual swimming class for seniors.

The program ends with David Sedaris’s “Jesus Shaves,” a characteristically hyperbolic description of his French class by the best-selling author of such engaging titles as Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, and most recently, When You are Engulfed in Flames. Our reader, who found his own voice for this comical essay, is writer, film director, and noted Shakespearean, Tim Blake Nelson.

The musical interlude is from the Penguin Café Orchestra’s “Surface Tension,” and the SELECTED SHORTS theme is Roger Kellaway’s “Come to the Meadow.”

For additional works featured on SELECTED SHORTS, please visit

We’re interested in your response to these programs.  Please comment on this site or visit

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. 


Dana Ivey, Robert Sean Leonard and Parker Posey

Comments [6]

M.A.R. from NJ

I should clarify, I'm referring to Miranda July's "The Swim Team."

Jun. 22 2011 11:40 PM
M.A.R. from NJ

Just attended the Selected Shorts reading in Livingston, NJ, and was very disappointed you chose to have this story read again. The reader, Aya Cash, did an excellent job, and the story itself is good, but why repeat yourself so soon, especially knowing that most of the audience will be made up of loyal listeners? Would have greatly preferred being exposed to something new, which is why I listen regularly in the first place.

Jun. 22 2011 11:32 PM

From the producers, re online access to SHORTS programs:

Unfortunately, copyright restrictions prevent us from archiving or streaming these programs, but they are available for a limited time as podcasts on iTunes,; and at See the icon in the upper right hand corner, under "About Selected Shorts" to subscribe to the podcast for this program and selected past episodes.

Mar. 21 2011 11:13 AM
Jim K. from New York, NY

Will this episode be available online anytime? I loved it!!!

Mar. 18 2011 09:31 AM

From the producers:

Thank you for your enthusiastic remarks about Miranda July's work. Just a clarification about our series: PBS is the public television network. SELECTED SHORTS is distributed by Public Radio International (PRI) one of the public radio networks.

Mar. 07 2011 09:34 AM
W. D. Miller from Shell Beach, CA

Miranda July's short: The Swim Team is poignant: with a capital P, and made ever more sharply pointed by Parker Posey's reading. The story's tone and style reminds me of the novel Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. I will read all that Miranda July has written, and I wll go see her films. Thank you PBS for exposing me to this excellent writer.

Mar. 06 2011 10:26 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.