Selected Shorts: Ghosts and Angels

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From James Thurber’s classic story of misunderstanding, “The Night the Ghost Got In,” to Alice Hoffman’s whimsical tale of bad karma turned good, “Examining the Evidence,” to Alan Gurganus's reverse Annunciation tale, “It Had Wings,” the line between the real and the numinous is both funny and fine.

SHORTS host Isaiah Sheffer describes Thurber’s mock ghost story as “the first I ever truly loved,” and gives it a zesty read. New York Times-bestselling author Alice Hoffman treads her usual fine line between magical and simply serendipitous in “Examining the Evidence.” SHORTS literary commentator Hannah Tinti says this tale of bad luck turned good follows her grandmother’s rule of threes: “In this story’s case: lightning, insects, then flood.”  Broadway star Joanna Gleason is the reader.

There is no ambiguity in Allan Gurganus’s “It Had Wings,” performed by Marian Seldes. Thwunk. There’s an angel in the garden.  What he’s doing there, and who gets helped most — he or the arthritic old woman whose consciousness he’s just altered — is what this charming tale is all about. The reader is theatre great Marian Seldes, who was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2010 Tony Awards, and is the subject of a recent documentary, “The Third Act of Marian Seldes.”

We conclude this story with former Poet Laureate Rita Dove’s bittersweet love story, “Secondhand Man,” read by Broadway musical theatre star Audra McDonald.  Tinti comments: “I just met Rita Dove in Homer, Alaska, at the Kachemak Bay Writers Conference. She gave a wonderful speech where she talked about how writing should be three things: dangerous, necessary, and true. This story hits all three of those marks, in spades.”

The SELECTED SHORTS theme is David Peterson's “That's the Deal,” performed by the Deardorf/Peterson Group.

“The Night the Ghost Got In,” by James Thurber, performed by Isaiah Sheffer.

“Examining the Evidence,” by Alice Hoffman, performed by Joanna Gleason.

“It Had Wings,” by Allan Gurganus, performed by Marian Seldes.

“Secondhand Man,” by Rita Dove, performed by Audra McDonald.

For additional works featured on SELECTED SHORTS, please click here.

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And for more thoughts on the stories in SHORTS, check out literary commentator Hannah Tinti’s site at

Announcing the 2012 Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Prize. This year's theme is “objects of desire.”  The judge is the author Maile Meloy and the deadline is March 2, 2012.