Selected Shorts: Travelers: A Wallace Stegner Tribute

A traveling salesman lost in a snow storm finds himself, and a farm family dreams of an excursion to town in two stories by this American master.

The stories on this program were the fruit of  a SELECTED SHORTS visit to the state of Utah, where we presented a program at the beautiful auditorium of the new Library in Salt Lake City—a stunning edifice designed by the architect Moshe Safdie.  The program included selected works of Wallace Stegner, best known for the novel Angle of Repose.  Stegner spent a good part of his life in Utah and depicted it in his novels and short fictions.   

As the two stories on this program demonstrate, he was a vivid word painter of the harsh and majestic Western landscapes and the inner struggles of the people who inhabit them.  Each of these stories is connected to automobiles and each depicts a spiritual as well as a physical journey. 

In the first, entitled “The Traveler,” a salesman’s car breaks down in the snow on an isolated country road on a dark night.  In the course of his efforts to get help and to simply survive, the man finds himself, to his surprise, on a journey of self-discovery.  The reader is Jack Davidson.

If our first Wallace Stegner story began with a car breaking down, “Goin’ to Town” begins with an old flivver that just won’t start, no matter how much the father cranks it up and fiddles with the wires under the hood.  And this is very bad news for the young boy who has looked forward to the day when his parents and he would drive from the isolated hardscrabble farm to the far away nearest town for the picnic, rides, fireworks, and holiday parade that will break the monotony of the endless, repetitive chores of farm life.

Much of the drama of this story has to do with the outward mechanics of trying to start the inert jalopy.  But a great deal has to do with the inner emotional life of father, mother, and boy.  This led us to try a rare innovation in our SELECTED SHORTS style, arranging the third-person narration and the three-way family dialogue among three actors’ voices.  Lillo Way is the voice of the young boy, and Jack Davidson and SHORTS host Isaiah Sheffer take turns as the father and mother. 

The musical interlude in this program is “Eventide” by Kenneth Fuchs. The SELECTED SHORTS theme is Roger Kellaway’s “Come to the Meadow.”

“The Traveler,” by Wallace Stegner, read by Jack Davidson 

“Goin’ to Town,” by Wallace Stegner, read by Jack Davidson, Isaiah Sheffer, and Lillo Way.

 For additional works featured on SELECTED SHORTS, please visit

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