Selected Shorts: Please Don't Explain

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.”

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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.