Selected Shorts: Big City Women

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This program brings us two venturesome women in two big cities.  The first part features an excerpt from Haruki Murakami’s prodigious novel 1Q84, and the second is an American story of a woman’s remarkable night-time encounters.

SHORTS literary commentator Hannah Tinti says that both works “capture what it’s like to live in a big city—the constant energy and excitement, and at the same time, the strangeness and disconnect that can make you feel isolated, even though you’re surrounded by millions of other people.”

Murakami’s novel was originally published as series of three books in Japan, but appeared  the U.S. (in October 2011) as one giant opus.  The author, long hugely popular in Japan and now with a global following, was born in Kyoto, Japan in 1949 and lives outside Tokyo.  His other works include The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, After Dark, and the short story collections The Elephant Vanishes and Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, from which we have featured several tales.

Typically for Murakami, 1Q84 starts with an ordinary situation—a busy woman stuck in a traffic jam—but soon morphs into something strange and fantastical.  Commentators have called the novel an homage to George Orwell’s 1984, and indeed the story begins in Tokyo in 1984 but soon shifts into what one of the characters, Aomame calls “1Q84”—an alternative reality—with the “Q” representing “the Question.”  In the opening chapter of the book, Aomame makes a bold decision that will eventually change her world, and the world, forever.    “Remember,” says another character provocatively, “nothing is what it seems.”

Reading from 1Q84 is Miriam Silverman, whose stage credits include work with The Public Theater and Trinity Rep.

During the Symphony Space performance that featured 1Q84, host Isaiah Sheffer celebrated Murakami's complexity and range by reading the openings of a number of his books.  Listen to that audio here:


For this program’s second depiction of a big city woman, we turn from Tokyo to Chicago and the work of a writer who lives and teaches in that metropolis, Audrey Niffeneger.  She is perhaps best known for her 1997 novel, The Time Traveller’s Wife which became an international best seller and was made into a movie.  Niffeneger’s "The Night Bookmobile," heard here, involves a woman who discovers a very private library on her nighttime strolls through the city. and was first featured in graphic form in The Guardian newspaper in England.  Tinti says it is about “how our books define us.”  The reader is Christina Pickles. 

Tinti says it is about “how our books define us.”  The reader is Christina Pickles. 

An excerpt from 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, performed by Miriam Silverman

“The Night Bookmobile,” by Audrey Niffenegger, performed by Christina Pickles

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

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

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.