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Selected Shorts: Forbidden Fruit

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

A restless schoolteacher flirts with scandal and a young girl craves freedom, in two tales about wanting what you can’t have.

Ever since God forbade Adam and Eve to taste the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden, the theme of “Forbidden Fruit” has been the source of many provocative stories, two of which are featured on broadcast. In the first story, “Yurt,” by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum — a tale of faculty life and loves in an American middle school — the forbidden fruit is not literally fruit, but rather a dream of a way of life that hangs there for the grasping. 

Bynum received her MFA from the distinguished program at the University of Iowa, and is now the director of the MFA writing program at the University of California, San Diego. “Yurt,” was first published in The New Yorker and was selected for Best American Short Stories 2009 edited by Alice Sebold. Bynum’s work has also been featured in Literary Review, Tin House, TriQuarterly and The Best American Short Stories 2004. She is also the author of the Ms. Hempel Chronicles featuring the protagonist of “Yurt’ in a series of inter-connected stories, and the story collection Madeleine Is Sleeping. The reader is Tony Award-winner Joanna Gleason.

In our second story on this program of fictions about “forbidden fruits,” the objects of forbidden desire are actually fruits. The story, by Grace Stone Coates, who was born in Ruby, Kansas, and lived from 1881 to 1976, is entitled “Wild Plums.” And it is these fruits which the daughter of an austere and rigid farm family is eager to taste, but forbidden to do so by her stern parents.

John Updike included this story in the 1999 volume, Best American Short Stories of the Century, which he edited. He described it as “a delicious trifle” which he could not keep himself from including in the anthology, commenting, “In this story, a child tugs against her parents’ puritanical caution and rural class consciousness. The obedient child, it seems, is being barred from the experience of life itself.”

The reader is Mia Dillon, whose theater credits include include “Crimes of the Heart,” “Agnes of God” and “Three Sisters,” and whose television work includes “Mary and Rhoda” and “Law and Order.”

The musical interlude in this program is "Stand," by R.E.M., from their album Green. The SELECTED SHORTS theme is Roger Kellaway’s “Come to the Meadow.”

For additional works featured on SELECTED SHORTS, please click here. We’re also interested in your response to these programs. Please comment on this site or visit the SELECTED SHORTS Web page.

Guests:

Mia Dillon and Joanna Gleason

Hosted by:

Isaiah Sheffer

Produced by:

Sarah Montague
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